Football is on its way back, folks. After months of waiting around, watching World Cup re-runs or sitting through daily Premier League Years marathons, we are finally closing in on the return of the beautiful game in the United Kingdom.
The Bundesliga was the first major European league to mobilise and get back onto the pitches, and the Premier League, along with La Liga and Serie A, are all set to follow suit in the coming weeks.
And while there may be plenty of obstacles to hurdle before we finally see our stars return to action, ‘Project Restart’ is edging ever-closer to fruition. 90min is on hand to bring you up to speed with the latest developments.
There are many concerns for health officials regarding football’s restart, as players could spread the virus to one other in a number of different ways during training or matches. But one action which is causing plenty of headaches is spitting.
Players regularly spit while out on the pitch, and the same goes during their workouts or training sessions, as they attempt to clear their airways. But this goes against the new rules put in place to avoid the possible spreading of the coronavirus, and the Mirror reports that Premier League has sent inspectors to training grounds up and down the country, to check these new laws are being enforced and respected.
Several clubs have been warned by these inspectors to stop their players from spitting, even if they do it through habit, rather than intentionally flouting the rules.
Manchester United executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward has told relegation-threatened clubs to accept their fate ahead of the Premier League’s return, insisting that there should be no special rules in place to remove the danger of the dreaded drop.
The Premier League is set to return in the middle of June, but there are fears that the coronavirus outbreak could bring the fixtures to a halt again, and in that case, completing the football calendar would be almost impossible.
And if the season is suspended once more, clubs will be forced to compromise on a fair resolution to the campaign. For any agreement to be reached, 14 clubs must all vote in unison, but there are concerns that more than six clubs will opt against relegation if the season is ended, throwing the league into chaos.
But the Red Devils are leading a group of clubs who believe there is no alternative to relegation when trying to satisfy their agreement with the football league, and Woodward told fellow chief executives to back down from their stubborn stance on a conference call last week, according to The Telegraph.
If clubs fail to come to an agreement on this hypothetical outcome, the season’s long-awaited restart may be delayed even further.
With the restart date of June 17 confirmed, and players working towards regaining match fitness, the Premier League officials must now decide a suitable method of organising the fixture list. They are keen to end the season as soon as possible, allowing plenty of time for a transfer window and a short break to take place before the 2020/21 campaign begins.
But The Guardian reports that some clubs may have to accept playing three games in seven days, as the Premier League looks to round off the remaining fixtures as quickly as possible.
It is believed that they are aiming to arrange six rounds of matches, which will take place from on long weekends, Friday to Monday, with three midweek rounds thrown in throughout June and July. These additional rounds will occur on 23-25 June, 7-9 July and 14-16 July, as the league hopes to complete the campaign by the end of July.
Expect injuries and cramp aplenty, then.
Football is coming home – but at a price. Obviously, there will be no fans in the stadiums to cheer on their beloved heroes over the next two months. And that will play its part in the outcome of the final results, especially at Villa Park.
Aston Villa captain and talisman Jack Grealish has admitted that he’ll miss having fans in the ground – but not only those supporting the Villans. Speaking to the Express and Star, the 24-year-old confessed that he loves being targeted by away fans, and ‘thrives off the hatred’ he receives.
“I love all that. I love when people are on my back and targeting me. I always remember when I was a kid – and I am not saying I am anywhere near his level – but Cristiano Ronaldo used to come to Villa and the fans used to absolutely cane him.
“He used to thrive off it and that is what I try to do. I try to thrive off the hatred from the fans.”
But Grealish admitted that he will not be affected by the lack of atmosphere in the stands, and he will leave the vote up to his teammates on whether they would like crowd noise to be pumped in during matches.
“I would be fine with it,” he says. “But if it came down to a vote I would probably let my team-mates choose because it would not really bother me whether there was crowd noise or not.
“I have just been raring to go and desperate to get back since we have been told we can.”