The return of football last June was a welcome sight for many, after the lockdown that began in March.

Some fans have been able to return to the grounds in areas of lower restrictions but this is proving a long and halting process.

Walking along the empty walkways at West Ham’s London Stadium, the thought regularly occurs as to when will the ground be bustling again with excited fans.

The past strange year has though also provided an opportunity to look back.

During the first lockdown, several past games were broadcast, notably the 1966 World Cup final.

It was fascinating to see the game develop, with the brilliance of players like Bobby Moore and Bobby Charlton.

The game has most definitely altered over the decades and not necessarily for the better.

The players are paid huge amounts of money these days. Long gone are the days of players travelling to games on the same buses as fans or drinking in the same pubs.

But it is probably on the pitch that there has been most change over recent years.

There has been the introduction of the Video Assistant Referee (VAR), which was intended to improve decision making and cut out mistakes.

In practice, mistakes still seem to being made and the VAR process is taking much of the life out of the game.

Not that everything was great in the old days, with some of the challenges verging on grievous bodily harm. But now the pendulum has swung too far the other way.

There have been many improvements. The quality of the stadia, with the all seater facilities (though not admission prices), and the virtual elimination of crowd violence.

The technical quality of the players has also improved.

So there are pluses and minuses regarding the way football has developed. What is for sure is that the game retains a special place in many people’s lives. The bond between clubs and supporters has become more apparent over this year of varied lock downs. That bond, though, will only become fully realised when the clubs can welcome back all those fans once again and the joy of match days is restored.

Paul Donovan is a Redbridge Labour councillor for Wanstead village and blogger. See