If you cast your mind back to the 2014/15 Premier League season. 29 games into the season, the newly promoted Leicester City were bottom of the table, seven points from safety. Despite leading his team to promotion in the previous season, the Foxes manager Nigel Pearson was under pressure.
Nobody really thought anything of the situation, this was the typical scenario of promoted team struggling to find its footing in the top tier. Leicester were still bottom in April and there had been rumours that Pearson had been sacked and swiftly reinstated. If Leicester had been relegated at the end of the season, nobody would have batted an eyelid.
Fast-forward to the current 2019/20 season and Aston Villa and Norwich are in a similiar position. Newly promoted and struggling in their first season back. Both teams are actually in a better position than Leicester were at the same point, five seasons ago. Norwich are six points adrift, while Villa are only two points adrift, but have a vital game in hand.
With the Covid-19 pandemic putting the current season on hold, with it’s potential conclusion in limbo, the tribal debates have at times drowned out the principle of the matter.
Neutral Fool’s Gold
Talk of neutral revenues being the only solution to completely the season, defies the fundamental rule of the league, the first rule of the structure of Premier League, is clearly stated on page 101 of the Premier League handbook:
C.1. Each Club shall play two League Matches against each other Club each Season, being the Home Club in respect of one such League Match and the Visiting Club in respect of the other.
Anything that infringes on that mid-season compromises the integrity of the league.
That is the fact of the matter. Playing on neutral grounds obviously creates a disadvantage. Most teams win the majority of the their points at home and in Villa’s case they have six out of their remaining 10 games at Villa Park. It’s why they have a decent chance of surviving.
Some fans of other clubs seem to be unable to see things objectively, accusing the bottom six teams of acting selfishly in resisting any measures that may put them in a weaker position to fight relegation.
Likewise, the flawed ideology that if the season is voided, then the table should simply stand as it currently is. There’s no thought to the integrity of competition there. Also, in Villa’s case, relegating a team that has played less games?
But forget about Villa for a moment, let’s go back to Leicester City’s plight in 2014/15.
If the Foxes sitting bottom and cut adrift had been relegated after 29 games due to the season coming to an end, then they wouldn’t have won the Premier League title the following season.
In their final nine games of the 2014/15 season, the Foxes won 22 points from 27, which lead them to 14th.
The previous time Villa had been promoted under Graham Taylor in 1987/88, they too had a transitional season in the top tier afterwards, where in their first season up, instant relegation looked a distinct possibility. They survived by one point, but then challenged for the title the following season, albeit finishing runners-up to Liverpool.
Both Aston Villa and Norwich have shown signs of what they are capable of against the best this season and both have been held back by key injuries. There is the potential there to transform, after a season’s experience in the league and a few new key signings for next season, if they stayed up.
This is football. It is not always predictable and that is why the integrity of its competitions should be respected.
In the latest episode of the My Old Man Said podcast, we expand on why voiding the season is the cleanest way of dealing with the situation both from a health point of view and in terms of protecting 2020/21 and future seasons.
There’s a whole host of other discussion, as detailed below, from the serious to the sublimely funny.
PS – Episode 104 coming soon.
Episode 103 Notes
Void or Not to Void: The Premier League’s Money vs Morality Conflict
As Aston Villa announce their intention to defer 25% of first team player wages for four months, the response of European leagues to the Convid pandemic increasingly shine a spot light on the Premier League’s plans to try and end the 2019/20 season.
On top of the Villa news of the club’s reaction to the Covid crisis and Villa player end of contract issues, MOMS takes an in-depth look at the impact of the global pandemic on football and the possibilities left open to the Premier League, and how they can possibility bring the curtain down on the 2019/20 season. As well as looking around European league for clues, we question the ethics in play and examine the reality of footballing life post lockdown.
In other news, we look at the potential Saudi buyout of Newcastle and the bizarre prospect of cardboard cut out fans in the Bundesliga.
Also, there’s the fun new romp of a segment called ‘Underrated or Overrated’, where we candidly judge Aston Villa players of yesteryear.
And finally…was ex-Villa centre-back Martin Laursen really a ‘Villa legend’? We examine modern day frivolous legend status.
Despite the lack of football around, it sure is a packed show.
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David Michael – @oldmansaid
Dan Rodgers – @avfc_vilr
Chris Budd – @BUDD_music
Producer/Editor – David Michael