By Neil Meredith
The seasons back and so are the fans, just how much we’ve missed them? The chants being sung, the roar of the crowd after a goal and the small interactions have been awfully missed the last 17 months as stadiums are back to full capacity.
As a new season brings hope and optimism, the highly anticipated opening weekend of the Premier League brought a near-record of 34 goals to make up for the absence of fans during last season.
Everton’s Dominic Calvert-Lewin, who sealed the blues 3-1 victory against Southampton, said, "It's a great feeling to score with fans being back in the stadium. I felt like a kid again."
The atmosphere up and down the country seemed to be one of joy and happiness as the long wait was over, reconnecting fans and players. Games had a fierce edge to them, and the intensity didn’t seem to drop throughout. A stark contrast to last season where some games were played at a snail’s pace as if it was a friendly – showing the fans importance.
Brentford kicked off the new campaign welcoming Arsenal as they became the 50th club to feature in the Premier League.
The packed-out Brentford Community Stadium showed the players how much they’ve missed watching them week in, week out as the Bees claimed a 2-0 victory. The crowd was even rocking to Hey Jude at full-time as boss Thomas Frank and his players joined in the celebrations.
Frank was even pictured after the final whistle during their lap of honour with a young fan as they both shared a beautiful moment together, encapsulating passion for the game.
"That was more than a 10/10 performance in terms of atmosphere.
"If there was only one man of the match, it's the fans. They were amazing. I'm a bit speechless. First time in the top-flight, we're opening the Premier League season, fans can dream we're number one in the Premier League. It's a fantastic story." Said the Brentford boss.
The energy the fans give to players undoubtedly lifts their spirits which they thrive off. Even when playing away, the buzz and excitement of the crowd can only inspire you to run faster, get into position and help the team. Also, if you’re playing poorly or in the form of your life, the fans will definitely let you know of that – they’re not shy.
Former England striker, Peter Crouch reflected upon his time at Liverpool FC mentioning the away trips in the UEFA Champions League saying, “For me, the more hostile the better. Turkey was so daunting, but I absolutely loved it with Liverpool.
We went out to have a look at the pitch with the programmes and the place was already full, already rocking. The whistling was deafening, they were all bouncing in unison…That is what makes it”.
Trevoh Chalobah, who made his Premier League debut last weekend, was certainly influenced by the crowd as they cheered ‘shoot’ before he fired the ball into the back of the net from 25 yards.
For a youngster to experience the roar of the crowd and the emotion that was displayed afterwards was so special to see – it wouldn’t have been the same if it was played behind-closed-doors.
Speaking about the goal afterwards the 22-year-old said, "I couldn't believe when the ball went in,
"I didn't know it went in until the crowd cheered. It was a surreal moment.”
The game is played in moments and those moments can swing the momentum with either team. A 50/50 tackle, a shot or a rapid counterattack can fire the ground up and uplift the players.
How many times have we seen a team dominate possession and have countless chances, whilst the opposite team grow in confidence from the support of the crowd and end up stealing a result from hardly anything?
That’s football and the uniqueness is that anything is possible. The fans are so special, it’s one of the reasons why so many play.
The level will certainly improve and only get better as the season progresses. With fans being back, nothing is guaranteed which really makes this Premier League campaign one of the most exciting yet.