Liverpool officials and fans have genuine fears their celebrations of a landmark Premier League title will be completely ruined by the coronavirus outbreak.
There are reports the Reds could lift the trophy in an empty stadium, as the top flight considers how to tackle to the virus in the coming weeks after the first stage of precautionary measures this weekend.
Behind the scenes at Anfield, and across the Premier League, a number of measures were put in place to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
According to The Athletic’s James Pearce, Liverpool commissioned a deep clean of all areas of the stadium used by players, with greater restrictions on access to back-stage areas, while James Milner was not allowed to collect his Man of the Match award from the Legend’s Lounge as usual, with guests informed it would put the midfielder at increased risk.
Across this weekend’s top flight action, the ritual of pre-match handshakes was scrapped in what was really a poor attempt to combat the virus, as players were tackling and jostling with each during the game and shared hugs and handshakes after the final whistle.
But what will happen next is shrouded in uncertainty.
It has already been reported that Premier League clubs are ‘expecting’ to play some of their games behind closed doors before the end of the season.
And supporters – after a long 30 year wait full of highs, lows, near misses and false dawns – are dreading what it could mean for their title celebrations.
“Going to the game on Saturday, every fan I spoke to said exactly the same — winning it behind closed doors is our worst fear. It’s what everyone is talking about,” Joe Blott, chair of Liverpool supporters’ union, told The Athletic.
“The first fear originally was winning the title by virtue of Manchester City slipping up. You want that moment when we’re playing and preferably at home.
“Now it could happen on our doorstep against Crystal Palace and there’s the prospect of fans not being allowed in to be part of the celebrations.
“After such a long wait and after such an incredible season, that would be very sad. It’s a moment in history everyone wants to be there for. We just hope it won’t come to that.”
The Athletic also claim that senior Liverpool officials ‘privately’ deem the prospect of having to play matches behind closed doors as a ‘real threat’.
Liverpool need just six points to be crowned Premier League champions for the first time, although they could wrap up the title by as early as NEXT WEEK if results go their way.
The earlier, the better, many would feel as they make their celebration plans.
The trophy parade has been pencilled in for Monday, May 18, and it would attract millions of people to the streets of Liverpool.
But, the government could put restrictions of public gatherings if the number of coronavirus cases continues to rise in the UK, which could also put the open top bus parade in jeopardy.
“We’re in dialogue with the club and we know they’re doing everything they can to help stop the spread of the virus,” Spirit of Shankly’s Blott added.
“Of course this is much bigger than whether football matches go ahead and the situation is constantly changing. We’re not public health experts.
“What they need to bear in mind is that if the stadium is shut then fans will still try to get as close as possible to Anfield. Every pub will be rammed.
“It’s simplistic to say that if you close the ground you’ll contain it because fans will still get together. Fans will congregate in even more confined and probably more contagious environments.”