It has been a long, pain-staking eight months for football fans but there is now, finally, some light at the end of the tunnel.
There has obviously been more important things lost to the coronavirus pandemic but attending football matches provides an escape from normal life for millions of people each weekend.
So, as we finally got the news we had all been waiting for on Monday when the Government announced stadiums could open their doors again, football fans up and down the country rejoiced.
Football fans are able to return to stadiums next month when lockdown ends on December 2
Boris Johnson revealed fans can return but crowd sizes will be limited based on the tier system
It has been a long eight months since the turnstiles were shut and the gates were locked. I’m a Liverpool fan and my family have had season tickets at Anfield since I was a child.
Not being there in person when we ended the 30-year wait for a league title was just agony and, no matter what Jurgen Klopp says, delayed celebrations will not be as special as they would have been at the time.
Much is made of the atmosphere at momentous games at Anfield but it most certainly exists, there can be no doubt about that.
The buzz around the Kop before kick-off, being squashed among thousands of fans in the yet to be developed areas of Anfield and, of course, singing ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ before kick-off make it a special place.
Liverpool’s last home game with fans was the Champions League defeat by Atletico Madrid on March 11 and we were forced to watch our magnificent, title-winning season conclude with empty stadiums and abysmal fake crowd noise.
No matter how hard Sky and BT have tried over the past few months, football is not the same when played in front of empty stands and my love for the game has undoubtedly suffered in the absence of supporters.
Matches have felt flat and less important than they actually are. Goals are greeted with a minor cheer or grimace on the sofa.
The tension sweeping from the stands down to the pitch at a full Anfield or Old Trafford brings an edge and intensity that has been missing over the past few months.
The coronavirus pandemic means fans have been absent with fake crowd noise used on TV
The football experience will be completely changed by the government’s rules and regulations
So although other parts of the Government’s restrictions have had a greater impact on my life since March, the ban on football fans was always the one I’ve been waiting to be lifted most.
But we cannot get carried away. There will certainly not be an immediate return to the good old days.
Crowds will be heavily limited depending on which Government tier they are located in and there will no doubt be several rules and regulations put in place in a bid to keep everyone safe.
A limit of 4,000 spectators in Tier 1 areas and 2,000 in Tier 2 means atmospheres will not be as fervent as they once were and will certainly not swing the advantage of playing at home back to where it was before.
Watching fans at matches will be tough for those in Tier 3 areas, where stadiums will remain shut, but there is still work to be done to overcome coronavirus and it is not worth risking the safety of a community for 90 minutes of football.
The full breakdown of which parts of the country are going into which tier will be announced on Thursday ahead of the end of lockdown next week and will be reviewed on a fortnightly basis.
It means those football fans unable to attend at the start have something to work towards in the coming weeks.
But for those fortunate to get the green light, potentially as early as December 2, you are able to get excited, although the match-day experience will be something completely new.
There is unlikely to be any gathering outside grounds with staggered entry and exit timings
That pre-match atmosphere and buzz in the hours before kick off will make way for queuing
As a Liverpool fan it will be bizarre not being able to sing along to ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’
Forget any match-day rituals that you used to have before March. They will mostly be gone, in the short term at least, with a strict framework to be introduced to keep everyone safe.
Get your club shirt and scarf out of the drawer but, whatever you do, don’t forget your face mask because that is very much a part of your football-going outfit now.
The anticipation that swells outside stadiums in the hours leading up to kick off will make way for hesitant queuing, social distancing, health checks and anti-bacterial handwash.
Pre-match talk of the manager’s team selection on public transport will also be minimised with fans urged to stay clear of trains, buses and the underground if possible to do so.
There will be no fans spilling out of pubs as they enjoy that glorious pre-match pint with venues, even in tier one locations, still limited to table service. It will still feel alien to have to book a table on matchday.
It is also possible that there will be no alcohol served on concourses before games and the hustle and bustle of those areas is likely to make way because of a strict policy of fans going straight to their seats from the turnstiles.
Staggered arrival and exit times will mean there is also no chance of gathering outside with your friends and family to have some pre and post-match chat.
Pubs will still operate table service only with alcohol unlikely to be served inside stadiums
Fans are unlikely to be able to chant or shout during matches in a bid to minimise transmission
Things will also be bizarre inside.
The importance of social distancing means fans are likely to be sat metres away from anybody else and that communal feeling of being squashed into the terraces, celebrating goals and airing your frustrations together will be gone.
Fans may be ordered not to sing or shout in a bid to minimise the spread of germs, meaning the atmosphere will be still be very flat. That is what will be the toughest thing for those fans lucky enough to go.
When you’re there, on the terraces, there is an undying sense you are part of a unit all desperate to will your team to three points. Not being able to encourage, criticise or celebrate will be very tough, indeed.
The prospect of a Liverpool fan not being able to sing ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ as it plays before before kick-off also seems very alien, a crucial part of my match-day experience that I am going to have to live without.
Strict rules on travelling between regions in different tiers will also make it difficult for many fans to attend matches, meaning London-based fans of northern sides may struggle to get to a game any time soon.
All of those things mean a football match will be far from the euphoric experience many of us are used to and it may take until a vaccine has been widely distributed to get a sense of normality back to stadiums.
But, after eight months away from the terraces, these rules and regulations are just a small price to pay to be able to watch live football again.