Premier League leave it late - again - to inform Burnley of postponement

The Premier League again left it late to inform Burnley of a second-successive postponement.
Premier League matchballPremier League matchball
Premier League matchball

The Clarets were in their hotel ahead of the game at Aston Villa, with the players having their pre-match meal, when the club found out, around 12-15 p.m., that the match had been called off by the Premier League, "based on the number of COVID-19 cases, injuries and illness" in the Villa camp.

The same situation occured on Wednesday night. when Burnley were preparing to face Watford, with that game forced off around two and a half hours before kick-off, due to an "ongoing COVID-19 outbreak" within the Watford squad.

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Right back Matt Lowton said after the Watford postponement: "Yeah, it is very frustrating, we'd done all the work building up to it, get to the game and obviously you're ready to play.

"It was a big game for us, we knew that - we took a good point at the weekend against a good side so we were looking forward to it.

"We were sat eating the pre-match meal when the sports scientist came in and said it was off, so very frustrating.

"We were having a conversation five minutes prior where we'd read no more games would get called off for COVID, Under 23s would have to be drafted in and things like that, and five minutes later we were told it's off.

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"I get they had travelled and had a lot of cases, and it is what it is, but we were none the wiser as to when it could be called off, we just have to be on it, the game is going ahead, and we have to think like that until told different."

However, they endured the same situation again at Villa.

Villa requested that the game be called off at 10-30 a.m. after a number of fresh COVID cases emerged after test results came in, and the Premier League broke the news to Burnley just after noon.

The Clarets, who had one unnamed case among the playing staff as of Thursday lunchtime, had no further positives.

It all means, should Newcastle's home game with Manchester City go ahead on Sunday, Burnley, currently a point ahead of their relegation rivals, would have three games in hand, after the recent home game with Spurs also fell by the wayside after heavy snow before kick-off.

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Burnley were already waiting for a report from the Premier League as to the full reasons behind Wednesday night's postponement, and this latest call by the league again leaves a lot of questions unanswered.

A number of Premier League clubs have requested that games be called off, as COVID cases rise, with some requests allowed, and others not.

League rules determine that a match cannot be postponed if clubs have 14 or more players available.

Each request has been considered on an individual basis, and Dyche is one of a number of managers who would like some clarity on the situation: "That is why we’re waiting on the report from our game, to understand what are going to be the reasons to call a game off and what are the cut-off points.

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"Imagine we are talking beyond health and welfare, which I don’t want to undermine - after that, what are the situations likely to occur to get a game called off?

"That is where we are a little grey."

And Dyche wonders whether some of the clubs with an abundance of players could not field a team of some description: "A lot of the clubs having games called off carry massive squads.

"If I phoned one of the more powerful clubs and said 'we want player X', and they tell me '£15m', and yet they have a couple of Covid cases and don't play player X, you go, how are they worth £15m then?

"In theory, when do we come to a time when we say we just have to play, within reason, the players that you have got?

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"I don’t know when we get to that point, but imagine if this keeps going, how many games do you call off and how long do you wait to get back on?

"There is nothing to say there won’t be Covid cases when we try to slide in the games we’ve missed.

"You have these squads for a reason and these Under-20s, and we do talk about development and how these young players are not getting a chance."

Leeds were forced to play against Arsenal on Saturday evening, despite being ravaged by injury, and Dyche wonders whether injuries should come into the equation for calling games off.

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After the league was put on hold from March to June in 2020, Burnley struggled to fill their bench upon Project Restart, using two goalkeepers at times, while several youngsters were named, including 18-year-old Max Thompson, who came on for his debut in the 5-0 defeat at Manchester City, while left back Erik Pieters operated on the left and right of midfield, and centrally.

Dyche said: "Last time we had loads of injuries, Covid was around the country, and we were still filling the bench with kids, playing players out of position and doing what we had to do.

"It's not as easy as I am suggesting, but if this keeps going, what do they do? Do we keep calling games off, or say now is the time to look at it?

"The challenge to what I say, obviously, we don't carry the squad like at least half of the clubs in the Premier League, if not two thirds.

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"Therefore it will be tricky for us. Some of the super-power clubs have 48 pros, and maybe 30 of them are internationals.

"We haven’t got that, so of course they are going to be stronger generally. So how do you define it?

"We don’t want to dilute or lose the competitive edge of the league completely.

"But we’re all at risk and could get it at any time. We are all trying to do the right things, but we will all still go out with our family and mates and you don't know where you contract it from - from a petrol station or a restaurant.

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"We just want to bring the margins into a our favour by doing the right things. But that one day you do something outside the norm, you could still get it.

"It's not easy for the Premier League, the players or the fans."