Today - 17 June - is the day for football fans and it’s just a matter of hours before kick-off.
Clubs voted on this day after the government gave thumbs-up for the season to resume.
In March, when the Covid pandemic brought professional football to a sudden standstill, fans were left wondering if the season would be written off. Given the time, money, effort and energy invested by all those involved, it would have been a bitter disappointment for the season to end without conclusion.
After weeks of debate fans finally got something to look forward to.
And, while professional sport is all about spectators, the ones emerging from lockdown are competing behind closed doors.
In addition, strict social-distancing rules limit football players’ celebrations, which will dampen the atmosphere even more. Despite this, the sport’s return is a welcome boost to the emotional well-being of fans, especially the ones still under lockdown who don’t find comfort in shopping.
Players may feel free, full of energy and relieved to return to the pitch, but playing may feel more like exercise rather than a head-to-head battle. Managers will have their work cut out as players may be fit but lacking match sharpness. Without live crowds, motivation will need to come from within.
Despite the weird setting, the fans - like kids waiting in expectation and excitement for Santa to come down the chimney - have been counting down the days as though it’s Christmas.
They are absolutely delighted and, after 12 weeks of lockdown, they will be going mad in a positive way. No doubt there will be a surge in demand for beers, snacks and takeaways as people welcome back the nation’s favourite grass roots sport in the comfort of their own homes.
First up on the fixtures list are the two games in hand from March: Aston Villa and Sheffield United, followed by Manchester City v Arsenal. The full fixture picks up towards the weekend.
Horse-racing has already had a taste of empty grounds with a restart on 1 June in Newcastle.
Royal Ascot is one of the biggest events on the racing calendar: today is the second day of the five-day festival, but this year it’s a show of masks rather than hats.
Racing enthusiasts will miss the social racing gathering, but none more than the Queen. It’s Her Majesty’s favourite week of the year and reportedly one of the first entries in her diary. For the first time in 68 years the Queen will not be attending, but cheering her horses from home and, I bet with a little flutter.
So taking the Queen’s lead, best to get comfy at home and hunker down with all your favourite nibbles and a blast of Football’s Coming Home.
PS: As I’m literally about to post this the Queen has just had her 24th winner. Hats off to Her Majesty!