There was an inevitability about the news that Villa’s game against Newcastle this Friday has been postponed.
Indeed, Steve Bruce’s squad had reported positive cases as far back as PRIOR to last Friday, after their 2-0 win over Crystal Palace, with five members of their first team bubble then isolating with C-19 as of Sunday (30.11.2020).
The Premier League will not postpone a fixture unless a side has fewer than 14 players available. The postponement indicates the severity of the outbreak within the Newcastle squad, which has been described as a “significant increase“.
Whilst the source of the outbreak remains unknown, the press in the North East has speculated that the clubs bubble was robust and consider the recent international break represents the most plausible breach.
From a footballing perspective, Dean Smith will have been eager to get back to winning ways after a frustrating away defeat at West Ham (2-1).
However, the rapid spread through Newcastle’s bubble, demonstrates both the speed at which C-19 can move between individuals in close contact but also how premature recent moves to return crowds to stadia are in reality.
When the national lockdown comes to an end on the 2nd December, ten Premier League clubs will be permitted to have up to 2000 supportors attending games. This will be under revised government rules in relation to Tier 2 areas.
Whilst we all miss the atmosphere, experience and social side of football, it seems glaringly obvious that now is not the time to be experimenting.
Until there is regular, reliable community based testing available for all and with efforts now gearing towards the future roll-out of vaccines, this postponement serves to remind us that the risks remain for now.
Indeed, on a day that the UK passed a sobering toll of 75,000 deaths, we should reflect that this is only football.
It can only be considered rational to wait until it is safe, is the experience we crave and is financially viable for clubs to re-open.
The Premier League agreed to Newcastle’s request to cancel the game, with no new date set for the fixture at this stage. Naturally, Villa raised no objection and supported the decision in a statement.
Dean Smith will now have to wait until the 12th of December to attempt to get Villa back to winning ways. Villa will travel to The Molineux for a 12:30pm kick off on that Saturday, in what is a far from straighforward away match.
The unexpected break will of coure afford the squad some reflection on it’s poor defending and finishing against West Ham, whilst Ross Barkley could be back in contention if recuperated from a hamstring injury.
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