THERE is something distinctly unsettling about watching a driverless car. Even the chap presenting the segment on the news the other day didn’t look entirely comfortable as he lifted his hands off the steering wheel and watched as some sort of technological witchcraft powered the vehicle forward.

No matter how many times you have been told that it’s perfectly safe, it’s going to take a while before people get their heads around the fact that it’s okay to let a computer steer you towards what seems to be the edge of a cliff.

Perhaps the only way you could relax in that situation is if you have had a few drinks of an evening, the only time when you are usually quite happy for just about anyone – whether man or machine – to spirit you home without a care in the world.

They can do just about anything with computers these days but accurately replicating the noise a football crowd makes isn’t one of them. And that has proved to be another befuddling experience these last few months.

There are two ways to watch a match on TV. One is by giving it your full undivided attention. The other is to commandeer the room to ensure you have access to the game but then spend much of the duration of it either looking at your phone or scanning a newspaper.

In the former situation, you notice a delay in the crowd noises. By the time the roar of expectation goes up the shot has already been taken, giving the impression that all the virtual fans at the game aren’t really paying attention either.

In the latter scenario, you find yourself looking up expectantly from your phone or paper by a noise on the television only to find it isn’t commensurate with the action unfolding on the pitch. There’s a big “ooooh” for a throw-in. A muffled half-hearted cheer for a brilliant save. And nobody going “waaaaaayyyyyyyy” whenever a referee falls over. In short, nothing like a real match at all.

The absence of a real crowd is no less bewildering when you are at a match. With just a sprinkling of club officials, substitutes and media dotted throughout the stands, you can hear everything that’s been shouted on the pitch or from the touchlines.

With no background noise, footballers have been robbed of the luxury of being able to cup an ear towards the bench and mouthing “what?” to pretend they can’t hear what they have been asked to do.

Poor Efe Ambrose, in particular, must have been wishing he was back playing in front of 60,000 fans in the first few games of the season given the running critique of his performance at left wing-back from the Livingston coaches.

So audible were the shouts that not only could everyone in the stadium hear them but anyone within several miles would have had a fair idea of what was going on too.

Both of these scenarios – fake crowd noise on TV, no crowd noise in person – feel artificial and unnatural. The news, then, that we may be on the cusp of returning to some sort of normality with some fans being allowed to return has got to be considered positive news.

Rugby, of course, gets to go first, again confirming most football supporters’ suspicions that they are second-class citizens when it comes to the treatment of sports fans in this country.

Still, if the 700 or so set to be allowed into the 67,000-capacity Murrayfield stadium on Friday for the Edinburgh v Glasgow derby can get through it without any drama then it ought to give considerable optimism that football can then follow.

Celtic have pitched for their match against Motherwell next Sunday to be used as a trial run ahead of the proposed reintroduction of fans across the board from September 14.

Like many things over the past few months, it won’t run entirely smoothly. One of the best things about being a football fan is you feel part of something bigger, congregated together in support of your side.

Now the opposite is going to apply, with spectators deliberately kept apart and, presumably, asked to enter and exit the stadium in a staggered fashion. Will singing and chanting be allowed? Will the fans need to have their temperatures checked? And, most importantly, will there be pies?

Perhaps the biggest logistical nightmare for clubs will be deciding just who gets to go. Even without away fans, it’s going to be some job trying to choose which of your season ticket holders will be allowed to come into the ground, and which will have to continue watching on the often unreliable streaming services.

These are all things that will need to get sorted out over the coming weeks. The end result almost certainly won’t please everyone, especially those who miss out. And there will undoubtedly be more than a few fans uncomfortable with a return to mass gatherings while Covid remains a very viable and persistent threat.

For the financial health of our clubs and the mental health of their supporters, however, the return of fans will be a very welcome development. And if we never have to listen to fake crowd noises on television again, then all the better.