Clarets midfielder Ashley Westwood backs Premier League's 'Project Restart'

Burnley midfielder Ashley Westwood has lent his support to the Premier League's 'Project Restart' after the government revealed it was "opening the door" for the return of professional football in England in June.

Friday, 15th May 2020, 8:00 am
Updated Friday, 15th May 2020, 5:38 pm
Burnley's Ashley Westwood

While some, including Watford skipper Troy Deeney, have spoken out against plans to restart the season next month, Westwood confirmed that the Clarets are good to go, providing measures are put in place to keep those involved as safe as possible.

The Clarets had embarked on a seven-game unbeaten run in the top flight before the Covid-19 pandemic forced the season's suspension with most teams still having nine games left to play.

Sean Dyche's side had been gearing up to take a trip to the Etihad Stadium to take on Manchester City, who had stars such as Sergio Aguero and Raheem Sterling raising concerns over proposals to finish the term.

"We've not been told when we're back yet," said Westwood. "We keep hearing rumours, obviously every club is individual, but we're just hanging fire. He [Sean Dyche] listened to our thoughts and how we feel about going back and, even though it's out of our hands, we're all happy to go back as long as it's safe for the players.

"That was all before the Prime Minister's briefing on Sunday so we're just waiting for all the meetings with the Premier League now. We're the last to know, but we're ready to go whenever as long as everything is safe.

"There is a worry, we're like everyone, because of what you hear on the news, but as long as it's safe and all done correctly then it shouldn't be a problem."

Though Deeney and Grant Hanley, who echoed the Watford striker's sentiments, are faced with the threat of relegation with their respective clubs, Burnley have no such worries.

They're currently in 10th position, hot on the heels of Arsenal and Spurs, and 12 points clear of danger.

Westwood said: "Luckily we've put ourselves in a position where we don't really have to worry about football at the minute because we're in a good place in the table. We're one of the lucky teams.

"We'd hit a bad spell and managed to get ourselves out of it; we went seven unbeaten and then we were looking forward to a game at City, but it wasn't to be.

"We don't want all our hard work to go to waste and I'm sure a lot of the other teams are the same. Hopefully we can get this one over the line and start afresh next year.

"If we manage to get the next few games out of the way we could put ourselves in a great position."

Westwood, like everyone else, is still waiting to hear what medical protocols will be imposed when the season does continue. A meeting has already taken place between the league, players, medical staff and the Professional Footballers' Association to discuss precautions for a return to training.

One thing that is for certain is that games will be played behind closed doors. The Bundesliga will be the first to trial that when football in Germany resumes today.

The 30-year-old, voted Burnley's Player of the Year last term, continued: "The last thing on everyone's mind recently has been football so it's all taken a back seat. Everyone's health comes first, but once it does start we'll be doing our best to get a few more wins and see where that takes us.

"The main thing is to ensure that everyone is safe and healthy so we can get through this. I think everybody's looking forward to 2021 now.

"I really don't know how they're going to do it. I'm just glad I'm not making decisions. It's just bizarre. It's going to be hard enough without having fans there so to add more restrictions will make it feel weird. It will make it tough adding more rules during the game.

"The pre-season games are hard enough without the fans because they're the ones who get you up for the game.

"It's going to be tough, but we've got a duty to go back, even if it's just to entertain the people at home and give them a break from all of this. If it gives them something to look forward to during the day I'm more than happy to play."