By Craig Hope for the Daily Mail
Published: 23:03 GMT, 1 November 2020 | Updated: 23:15 GMT, 1 November 2020
Football behind closed doors. Even amid the madness of 2020 this is barking.
‘You just want to pull open the door and actually see your team on the pitch again,’ says Middlesbrough supporter Chris Hunter.
The 52-year-old is in a corporate box inside the Riverside Stadium. Less than 100 yards away — beyond the blacked-out windows — Boro are beating Nottingham Forest 1-0 with seconds remaining.
Middlesbrough fans gather in lounges at the Riverside to watch the Nottingham Forest game
How Neil Warnock’s side could do with some hearty encouragement rolling down from the stands. Instead, Chris and others roar at a television screen. Boro hold on. They are fifth in the Championship.
‘It’s been a brilliant day,’ he says. ‘And credit to the club for putting this on. But it’s not the same. I parked a few yards from the entrance. You might think that’s great but I miss the two-mile walk to the ground, being part of a crowd, seeing the stadium come into view. I miss sitting in the cold stand, shouting and screaming, feeling like you’re making a difference.’
For now, though, this is — or was — as good as it gets. Warnock had not long finished speaking to fans in the hospitality lounges after full-time when Boris Johnson announced a second lockdown, blowing the whistle on days out such as this.
Sportsmail was kindly invited by the club to experience the absurdity of it all on Saturday, the Government’s refusal to allow supporters into stadiums meaning they can gather in the lounges and watch on TV as long as the pitch is blocked from view.
The government is still refusing to allow supporters into stadiums to watch matches