I’M going to let you into a secret. I’m missing football.

There, I’ve said it, and before you start judging, I know I shouldn’t be. It’s only been a week since English football’s lockdown really cranked into gear, and let’s be honest, there are slightly bigger things going on in the world at the minute than 22 people running around kicking a ball.

The old and vulnerable are dying at a quite staggering rate, social distancing regulations have completely transformed our everyday life and businesses the length and breadth of the country are having to close as their revenue streams disappear. Yet here I am, wistfully fantasising about Burnley vs Watford on Super Sunday.

Does that make me a bad person? I’d argue not. Former Italy manager Arrigo Sacchi is credited with defining football as “the most important of the unimportant things in life”, and I think that’s a pretty reasonable assessment of where we’re all at.

Yes, we know the sport is a complete irrelevance when posited against matters of life and death. But while so much of what is happening at the moment is too big and all-consuming to properly compute, the absence of football is easy to grasp. A constant that had always been there has suddenly been wrested away.

I’ve been surprised by the way in which the last few days have revealed just how much of my life and its regular rhythms revolve around football. Clearly, as a sportswriter, you’d expect football to play a big part in everything I do. For the last two decades, family and friends have had to become accustomed to me not being around on a weekend.

But it’s more than simply not having to disappear on a Saturday morning to go to a game. It’s the forced withdrawal from a community of like-minded people, some of whom I know, some who I have never met, for whom football is a similarly all-consuming discourse.

It’s no longer having to sneak in half-an-hour on a Friday when my wife is not looking to change my fantasy football team and put a four-team accumulator on for the weekend. It’s scrapping the weekly TV schedule – Match of the Day on a Saturday night, live game on a Sunday, Champions League on a Tuesday and Wednesday.

It’s the absence of my Thursday night kick-about with the lads, and then the dash back to the village for a forensic post-match dissection of what just happened over a couple of pints in the local. It’s having to change the topic of discussion in the village shop when I drop in to pick up the milk. ‘So, what’s going to happen with the Boro this weekend then Scott?’ I won’t be able to answer that for a while.

So much of my week revolves around football, which surely underlines just how integral the sport is to the fabric of everyday life. In a world in which more traditional communal bonds are being broken or becoming less relevant – social isolation was gathering pace long before the Government advised against attending pubs, clubs and restaurants – football is one of the few things that brings us together.

It does that most obviously in terms of identifying as a supporter of a particular club, and not being able to express that solidarity or benefit from the emotional uplift of being part of a bigger whole is difficult. True, there are elements of football’s tribal nature that are somewhat unedifying. But the tenets at its core – community, unity, looking out for one another – are the bedrocks of a desirable society.

Those bonds are apparent when a goal goes in, and a guttural roar emerges from a football stadium before spilling out and washing over the rest of its town or city. Football clubs don’t just bind together the supporters in the ground, over the last decade or so, England’s professional clubs have done much to reinforce the strength of their relationship with their wider community. Supporting foodbanks, running community coaching schemes, offering educational facilities, swelling civic pride – football clubs often find themselves at the heart of civic society. That function hasn’t been lost at the minute, but it inevitably becomes increasingly peripheral if matches are not taking place.

There are direct economic repercussions of the current footballing lockdown, both in terms of those directly employed by clubs, and other businesses and workers whose income is heavily dependent on the sport taking place, but while the wider impact of the current break is less easy to quantify, it is perhaps even more damaging. If people do not have something to cling to during the current crisis, something to take their mind off the ever-more horrific news stories and warnings, what will they do?

That is football’s wider role, away from the communal aspects of being attached to a particular club. Football, even if you are not emotionally invested in a specific team, is glorious escapism.

For 90 minutes of watching, or however long you’re able to manage if you’re running around playing, the sport offers an opportunity to shut off the outside world and enter a sporting bubble. Block out your worries and fears, and lose yourself in a passionate debate about whether that tug on the shirt merited the award of a penalty.

None of this is to suggest that we do not have bigger concerns. The various footballing authorities were right to order an immediate shutdown, and given the gravity of the escalating crisis, it is impossible to know when the sport will return. The current arguments about how or if to end the season are understandable, but are utterly inconsequential in the grander scheme of things.

Yet that does not mean football is inconsequential, or that we should feel ashamed of pining for a day when the whistle will blow and we can once again lose ourselves in our favourite escape.