Category Archives: COVID-19

FA WSL Round UP: covid tears apart Fixture List

In what must be the strangest weekend in WSL history only one fixture was played over the weekend. Five of the six scheduled games were postponed as a result of positive Covid-19 tests and injuries. A rise in positive cases and required self-isolation sparking the debate as to whether football should continue during the pandemic.

The one fixture that did go ahead saw Chelsea move into second place after thumping Reading five goals to nil. Fran Kirby hit four goals in a dominating win for The Blues.

Manchester City were due to host West Ham on Saturday 9th, but after positive tests at the club and other mitigating circumstances they were unable to field the required 14 players.

Aston Villa who were hosting Arsenal also saw there game postponed as Arsenal were also unable to field a side after a number of their players were self isolating. Three Arsenal players one of which being Katie McCabe made trips to Dubai over the winter break and have faced criticism for making the trip. Arsenal have investigated the matter and believe the travel was in line with Government restrictions.

Birmingham City’s trip to Tottenham was called off due to injuries within the City squad. As it was not related to Covid the game will not be rescheduled. The league made the following statement:

Birmingham contacted the FA to notify the association they would not be able to fulfil the fixture away at Tottenham due to not having enough players fit and available to play, as a result of a number of injuries.

“A request for postponement was made by the club under the competition’s epidemic rule, but was not able to be granted as this is an injury-related issue.

“The outcome of the fixture will be determined by an independent tribunal.

“The FA will provide an update on that decision in due course, and wishes the players concerned a full and speedy recovery.”

After the decision Birmingham released the following:

As a professional football club we have a duty of care to our players. Their welfare is at the centre of this decision and it is a conclusion we never wanted to reach.

“However, it has been well documented that Carla Ward’s side has been the victim of an unfortunate and extraordinary run of injuries and despite our best efforts to field a team this weekend, it would be irresponsible to do so.

“The club maintain the position that we would be putting our players at risk of further injury and jeopardise their wellbeing in pursuit of fixture fulfilment. This is not a concession we are willing to make.

“An application for a postponement was submitted to the FA but this request was denied.

“We are aware of the ramifications of this decision but contest that we are also bound by an obligation to preserve our players health and safety, above all else.”

Brighton, who were due to travel to play Bristol City, had a second positive case in Friday’s round of testing meaning they had seven players isolating:

“We thank both The FA and Bristol City for their assistance and understanding in dealing with this matter” said a statement from Brighton.

Manchester United manager Casey Stoney has apologised for allowing members of her squad to go Dubai despite their being no outbreak within the United squad. Their match at Everton was called off due to Covid concerns within the Everton camp. Five Everton players contracted coronavirus over the Christmas break.

“I said before Christmas that I will always take my players’ well-being into consideration and I granted [them] permission to go home and see their families to have a break,”

Stoney said:

“Everything we allowed them to do was within government guidelines, but I have to be honest and on reflection it was a poor error in judgment from me. I am sincerely sorry for that. I’m human and I make mistakes, I take responsibility for it.”

Reading v Chelsea

There was one game that went ahead as Chelsea blow Reading away at the Majewski Stadium. Fran Kirby hit a first half hat trick and got a fourth in the second half before sub Ji So-Yun made it five.

The win moves Chelsea into second just three points behind leaders Manchester United with a game in hand and a superior goal difference. Chelsea have put the pressure on United as the sides are due to met in the next round of games.

Chelsea took the lead after 16 minutes, a hopeful ball up the middle was flicked on by Sam Kerr. Kirby got behind the Reading defenders and rounded keeper Grace Moloney to slot home. Chelsea almost doubled the lead as Kirby found a pocket of space just outside the box, curling in a right football shot she struck the post.

It was 2-0 after 23 minutes as Reading defender Emma Mitchell gifted Kirby the ball half way into the Reading half. The invitation to charge at goal was all Kirby needed as she put the ball past the advancing keeper’s right, with her left foot. Mitchell attempted to get back in front of Kirby but the Chelsea player was not to be denied.

Kirby competed the perfect hat trick in first half injury time. From a free kick sent out to the by-line, Sam Kerr turned it back towards the area where it was met be the head of Fran Kirby who guided the ball into the top corner.

Half time: Reading 0 v 3 Chelsea

Eight minutes into the second half and Kirby had her and Chelsea’s fourth. From a corner floated towards the near post, Kirby outjumped Angharad James to loop the ball into the far corner.

Ji So-Yun rounded off a superb Chelsea performance with a fifth goal. Hannah Blundell’s cross found Ji in the box, taking the ball down on her right foot and calmly waiting for the ball to bounce and sit up for a volley into the far corner on her left foot.

Chelsea in fine form as they head into the next round and a top of the table clash with Manchester United. This was the Fran Kirby show as the England forward helped herself to four goals.

Full Time; Reading 0 v 5 Chelsea

The WSL is back on January 17th, with the top two meeting as Manchester United travel to Chelsea. Manchester City will host Aston Villa, Everton will play bottom side Bristol City. Reading will host Arsenal, Birmingham City face Brighton and there’s a London Derby as Tottenham travel to West Ham.

The Future is tangerine!

It’s safe to say that it’s been a tough year for all football fans after the sport was paused for three months earlier in the year, and ever since the majority of grounds haven’t had a return to supporters. But spare a thought for Blackpool fans who spent five years divided over the ownership of their football club. No sooner had they returned against Southend in March 2019, and COVID-19 put paid to the first full season under new ownership earlier this year.    After spending five years staying away from Bloomfield Road as part of a ‘Not a Penny More campaign’, Pool fans are now being forced to stay away due to the risk of COVID and instead forced to watch a new squad, under a new manager, via laptop at home. But there is still a feeling of excitement and optimism building – despite the fact the fans can’t show their support first-hand.

In June 2019, Blackpool-born businessman Simon Sadler bought a 96.2% share of Blackpool Football Club, much to the delight of Blackpool fans after many turbulent years of suffering through the Oyston ownership. The reign of the Oystons, which started in 1987, is commonly renowned for the Seasiders’ downfall from the Premier League down to League Two, in the space of four seasons. In what could only be described as one of the worst ownerships in football history, where the owners sued their own supporters, openly mocked others via text and gloated around the town with OY51OUT as his number plate, on the field the club suffered back-to-back relegations and failed to keep hold of its previously impressive squad, assembled by Ian Holloway. It caused much unrest and discontent throughout the fans, with the majority opting to stay away and refusing to give any more money to the owners. The Oystons were eventually forced to sell the club, after losing a high court case to Latvian businessman Valeri Belekon, a man who previously owned a share in the Tangerines and was found to be owed £32m in court. 

Simon Sadler’s purchase was completed in June 2019, sparking scenes of jubilation across Blackpool and beyond, as fans looked forward to their long anticipated trip back to Bloomfield Road, with some having boycotted the stadium for upwards of four years. Sadler’s purchase allowed fans to feel like their club is finally in the correct hands, after so many years of division and unrest. Sadler proved to the supporters that he was the man to take the Seasiders forward from the start, by interacting, communicating and meeting the fans face to face, something Blackpool were not used to. 

Sadler has not only brought financial stability to the club at the perfect time, but also security for the once suffering fans, in knowing that their club is safe and in the correct hands. The prospect of new ownership was, and still is, an extremely exciting one for Blackpool fans. In aid of pushing the Pool back towards the Championship Sadler has immediately made the Seasiders one of League One’s highest spenders in terms of outgoing transfer fees. In his first transfer window Sadler supplied newly appointed Simon Grayson with over £1m, a fee which was eclipsed this summer as the club brought in 17 new players to support the new manager Neil Critchley. 

It’s not all been plain sailing so far – the return of Simon Grayson last summer was initially seen as a solid appointment, given he’d previously achieved four promotions from League One previously – including once with the Seasiders already in 2007. Unfortunately, Grayson’s return to Bloomfield Road mirrored his poor recent spells with Sunderland and Bradford City rather than the earlier success he’d seen. Grayson departed in February, having been considerably backed in the January transfer window, after a shocking run of just one win in 12 matches

By March, the new man was appointed in the shape of Liverpool under 21’s manager Neil Critchley. The then-41 year old was relatively unknown when appointed, having only managed at academy level with both Crewe Alexandra and Liverpool. But as one of only sixteen coaches worldwide to obtain UEFA’s elite coaching badge, he certainly has an impressive CV – though there were questions over whether he could do it at First Team level. 

Just two games into his reign, the outbreak of COVID-19 curtailed the rest of the League One season. Rather than sitting and waiting to find out when football would resume, Sadler did not furlough his scouting team and work continued as the board and new manager looked to assemble a squad to compete at the top end of the table this season. That allowed the club to steal a march on its rivals with free agents at the start of the window, as Keshi Anderson, Marvin Ekpiteta, Oliver Sarkic and Ethan Robson all joined by early August. They were accompanied by Jerry Yates and CJ Hamilton for substantial fees in the current climate. Critchley cited the club’s ambitious, forward-thinking direction as one of the key factors that lured him into the managerial role.

There’s no doubt in saying that this isn’t an overnight process. Especially with an almost entirely new squad, that even today are still learning about each other’s strengths, weaknesses and attitudes. This has been reflected by the Seasiders’ bumpy start to the campaign, picking up just one win from their first seven league matches. But more recently, the new squad has started to find its feet and get to know each others’ games. Mistakes were made early in the season as the side looked bereft of cohesion and togetherness, but now they are improving each week in terms of performances and results. Those mistakes helped to shape the squad into a stronger unit as a team, and a force against any side in the division in recent weeks. 

Ahead of Saturday’s trip to Fleetwood Town, the Pool have won eight of their last 10 games in all competitions, with the togetherness, unity and cooperation of the team playing a massive part in some impressive results – particularly against Peterborough and Portsmouth who are up at the top end of the table. Critchley’s fresh, exciting and attacking football that was talked about with the boss’ introduction has been evident, something that is an extremely exciting prospect for all Seasiders fans who have long dreamed of such a reality. 

The main thing for now is that the fans have the club back. Sadler certainly came to the aid of broken Blackpool supporters after times of such misery and despair under the previous regime. It was a very dark period in the club’s history, and simply by walking through the door, the club was already in a far better place. But not only that, Blackpool have been able to really build on the feel-good factor by showing ambition already both on and off the field. The final piece to the jigsaw is for fans to return and show the appreciation to the new group of players first-hand. This was possible once this season after the Seasiders were involved in a pilot event at the start of the season, allowing 1,000 fans into Bloomfield Road against Swindon Town, and hopefully in the coming weeks this will be able to be built on. 

These fans have never stopped fighting for what they believe in, and Sadler – who is one of them himself – has shown just how committed he is to the cause, and how much this town, and football club mean to him. It’s clear to see that Sadler certainly bleeds tangerine, and has allowed the fans to feel at home again at Bloomfield Road – restrictions permitting. With an exciting brand of football in the pipeline and off-the field developments starting to gain momentum, Sadler is rebuilding and galvanising a the football club which has a proud history. Together, the owner, board, players and staff – as well as the fans – are all striving to work together and get this great football club back to where it belongs. The future is bright, the future is tangerine!

Post written by George Wincott of utmp

Will the presence of fans in some stadiums affect results?

March 9, 2020 was the last game that involved fans watching their team live.  The match was Leicester City vs Aston Villa and resulted in a 4-0 victory for The Foxes. 

Who would have thought though that it would have taken until December to see fans to witness competitive sports in some of the lands most famous stadiums again? 

Well, if you’re a supporter of a team living in COVID-19 Tier One or Two areas some fans will be able to watch their side live for the first time in almost nine months. This means 51 of the 104 clubs across the Premier League, EFL and Women’s Super League able to host a maximum of 2,000 supporters.

Which teams can have fans in stadiums again?

This means good news for Premier League’s London clubs: Tottenham, Chelsea, West Ham, Crystal Palace, Arsenal and Fulham. While also on the list are South Coast clubs Southampton and Brighton as well as the Premier League Champions Liverpool and their rivals Everton. 

The other ten sides in the top flight, however, will have to wait to welcome back supporters.  Being in Tier three areas such as Manchester and Yorkshire they will continue to play games behind closed doors.  This means: Manchester United, Manchester City, Burnley, Sheffield United, Leeds United and Newcastle United .  While midlands clubs Leicester City, Aston Villa, Wolverhampton and West Brom will also have to play games without their fans. 

In addition, away fans from tier three areas will be unable to travel to games in tier two stadiums. 

Indeed, on Thursday Arsenal will have the honour of being the first English team to play a competitive match, a Europa League tie against Austrian side Rapid Vienna.  Being in a Tier 2 area, the Gunners will be able to play in front of 2,000 of their own supporters for the first time in nearly nine months. 

Unsurprisingly, however, the 2,000 tickets were sold out within 20 minutes of going on sale.  The first Premier League games, meanwhile, to take place in front of fans are set to be West Ham United’s encounter with Manchester United and Chelsea’s home game with Leeds United. 

Will allowing supporters in certain grounds be fair?

The awkward question remains. Will having supporters back in certain grounds affect the outcome of the match? 

Crystal Palace Manager and former England Coach, Roy Hodgson said:

“It will make a bit of a difference at Selhurst Park than it will do at some other stadiums, where the capacity is so much higher. 

“But I don’t think it is a question really of what difference the fans are going to make, I think it is more of how nice it is going to be for those fans who are selected to be one of those who gets a ticket to see a match live again.”

While Fulham boss Scott Parker said: 

“It’s a breath of fresh air, it’s what we all want. It’s what the fans want and what we want as a team.”

Understandably not everyone is in agreement.  Leeds United Manager Marcelo Bielsa, whose side falls into the category of a tier three area, meaning supporters will have to wait a little longer to see their side live, said:

“It shouldn’t be about the category, or the consequences of being in a category, it should be about trying to maintain the competition as equal as possible with things that are controllable. 

“I am just looking at common sense, which perhaps doesn’t go.  The presence of fans has an effect on the results.” 

Boton Wanders boss Ian Evatt, whose side play in League One and will also have to continue playing without the support of fans in stadiums, said:

“Without getting into a big political debate I just cannot believe the way (it has gone).  For me, we’re a country and we should all be together, regardless.  It should be one for all and all for one.”

What do you think?

It must come, therefore, as no surprise to see the football world split down the middle following this government announcement. There certainly is a compelling case for both arguments, on the one hand watching football without fans in the stadiums is not the same as stated by former Manchester United Manager, Sir Matt Busby. 

Busby was once famously quoted as saying:

“Football is nothing without fans.”

There is, however, the legitimate question of fairness and equal competition when it comes to competitive sport.  How do you create a level playing field?

Personally, however, I can’t wait to see to see fans bring the atmosphere and magic back to the sport again, no matter whom they support! 

Feel free to share your views in the comments below. 

Marcus RASHFORD to be presented with special award at BBC SPOTY

The Manchester United and England International Marcus Rasford is set to be presented with an award in recognition of his impressive contribution in raising awareness of child food poverty within the UK. 

Rashford will receive the honour at this year’s BBC Sports Personality show hosted at the Media City in Salford on December 20. 

Earlier this year, Rashford successfully campaigned for the Government to extend free school meals during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

In addition, following further campaigning from the 23-year-old in November the Government were persuaded to announce more than £400 million will be made available to support poor children and their families in England.  While the striker has also launched a book club to help children enjoy reading.  

The BBC director of sport, Barbara Slater said:

“In a year that has been challenging for everyone, but particularly vulnerable families, he has gone above and beyond to transcend his sport and make a real difference.

“This award is a tribute to a remarkable young man.”

Indeed, on December 21 there will also be a documentary shown on BBC One, which will feature Rashford and go more in-depth into the motivation of the Manchester United striker’s decision to launch this campaign. 

It will also show how his efforts contributed to the announcement of the relief measures announced by the Government. 

The BBC head of commissioning for documentaries, Clare Sillery added:

“Through our access, we hope viewers will get to see just how passionate and determined he is about tackling child food poverty in Britain today.”  

Rashford has also been named on the Football Black List in recognition of his off the field campaigning. The list was first drawn up in 2008 by co-founders Leon Mann and Rodney Hinds and is designed to highlight black industry professionals who are positive influencers.

The Manchester United player follows other footballers such as: Watford’s Troy Deeney, Aston Villa’s Tyrone Mings and Wilfred Zaha and Chole Morgan of Crystal Palace.  While one of the most recent names to also be added was Manchester City’s Raheem Sterling for his work to combat racisim. 

When asked about Marcus Rasford’s campaigning efforts the Football Black List’ co-founder, Hinds said:

“The efforts of Marcus Rashford deserve acclaim alongside the others on the list who go about their business for the good of others.”

You can find out more about the Black List, the work they do and who is on it in the link here

AFC Wimbledon HIT BY COVID

AFC Wimbledon, literally a few days after celebrating their momentous return to Plough Lane, have been hit by the COVID Bug.

Following the game against Doncaster Rovers, a number of the first team squad, returned positive tests.

As a result of this the weekends FA Cup first round tie at Barrow was postponed, to allow the affected players time to self isolate and recover.

24 Hours after this news was announced, the club then implemented a 14 day Fire Breaker, and everyone at AFC Wimbledon, is now isolating as a precaution

What this means is that the clubs next home game at Wigan, has also been postponed, till the results are known.

It isn’t known how the players contracted the virus, though in the games previously to being back at Plough Lane, the club were playing fixtures in the North, which as is known at this time, is where the majority of the worst cases are.

How Does This Affect The FA CUP for Wimbledon

Because this is a different competition to the EFL and as it was the the first round, it means that the club will treat the game as if were a replay and it will take place on a later date

So Both Barrow and AFC Wimbledon will be in the draw taking place tonight on BBC2, with them both having the Number 30 ball.

AFC Wimbledon’s next scheduled league game, ironically, is back in the north against Rochdale at the Crown Oil Arena. At this time the game is planned to go ahead