The former EFL player, now a prominent Sky Sports pundit, believes the pre-match symbol against racial inequality isn’t as powerful as it once was
Prutton assesses West Brom, Fulham and Sheff Utd’s chances of success
Long-serving Sky Sports pundit Don Goodman believes that the act of players taking the knee has “lost its power”.
Aimed as a show of solidarity in the fight for racial equality, it has been a familiar pre-match symbol since first being carried out after Project Restart in June 2020.
Players in the Premier League and across the EFL have taken part in the movement, but there has been examples of the act being booed – during a handful of EFL games with supporters in last season and also by a section of England fans prior to the national side’s games in this summer Euros.
Speaking exclusively to Mirror Sport, Goodman believes that the once-powerful message is now starting to be diluted.
He said: “I think it’s obvious that every club, player, coach – all of us involved in the game – support the stance against discrimination and racism.
“My personal opinion regarding the knee is that I feel that it has lost its power, slowly but surely.
“It’s just lost some of what it had.
“I’ll never forget the first game of Project Restart when Aston Villa played Sheffield United. All the players had ‘Black Lives Matter’ on the back of their shirts and there was a big drive and it was like ‘wow, that’s a statement’.
“But I just think football, the clubs and Kick It Out have missed a trick really in not coming up, in the close season, with something just different.
“Whether that’s a different symbol or whatever.
“Because of the controversy that it’s (knee) caused, we could have developed a different symbol or way of protesting and supporting the fight against discrimination.
“I understand and am with every single player who still does it, and am wholeheartedly behind it, but I also understand those who say it has lost its meaning a little bit.”
This weekend marks the return of not only the EFL’s three divisions but also capacity crowds.
Not since March 2020 has it been possible for supporters of all 72 clubs to go and watch their side in the flesh.
Goodman, 55, admits that the majority of games he called last season were still entertaining despite being behind-closed-doors – but he is desperately looking forward to the punters flocking back.
“Football without fans is soulless,” he added.
“It didn’t stop me enjoying it, because the action still threw up remarkable stories. The play-offs, especially, never let you down.
“But when fans were allowed back in for those games, my goodness, it was remarkable.
“I just hope now after what everyone has been through, that people understand just how important football supporters are to the beautiful game.”
Goodman’s first assignment of the 2021-22 campaign comes in Friday night’s Championship curtain-raiser, with Bournemouth hosting one of his former clubs West Brom.
And he believes it pits together two of the favourites for promotion – along with Fulham and Sheffield United – in what will no doubt be another season of thrills and spills.
He added: “I think prior to last season, it was only about 30 per cent of clubs that got relegated who ended up going straight back up.
“That’s how hard it can be. But I do think Watford and Norwich took real advantage of it last year, in what was an unusual season.
“Having said that, I do think the three relegated clubs, as well as Bournemouth, will be the favourites this time around.
“But I also do envisage that we’ll have another surprise like we had with Barnsley last season.
“I think there is an opportunity, below the four clubs I’ve just mentioned, for any of the other clubs to more or less get a top-six position.
“It’s going to be fascinating.”
* Sky Sports is the home of domestic football and this season will be broadcasting 138 live matches from the EFL
Sign up to the Mirror Football email here for the latest news and transfer gossip