No tears from the crowd: Aston Villa’s crucial survival contest with West Ham represents the new Premier League


The pan to the crowd. The focus in on one crying fan agonising over their team’s relegation. There will be no tears in the stands at the London Stadium on Sunday afternoon.

It’s an image synonymous with so many relegations over the years. But in a world dominated by the coronavirus, no fans home or away will be travelling to Stratford to watch a crucial fixture in the fight for Premier League survival.

Aston Villa’s win over Arsenal at Villa Park in midweek sparked the hosts in the quest to survive, the result also put them in the driving seat for survival, and plunged managerless Watford into the relegation zone.

Instant relegation back to the Championship seemed inevitable for the Villains, with many fans ready to accuse them of ‘doing a Fulham’ as soon as their drop was confirmed.

One of their spends from last summer has secured them six points in recent weeks. Trezeguet’s goals against Crystal Palace and Arsenal will prove crucial should Dean Smith’s men secure their place in the Premier League for the 2020/21 season.

This may be one to watch for the neutral, the Villa boss confirming they will be going all out for victory on Sunday.

“We control our own destiny and that’s what we wanted to have going into the last game, Smith said.

“It was looking unlikely and that we’d have to rely on others but results went our way in the week and we’re above the dotted line at the moment.

“The most important thing is to be above that dotted line on Sunday and we know we have to win to guarantee that. We’ll be going all out to win.”

The permutations are due to change throughout the contest. There will be eyes diverted on the results at the Emirates where Watford face Arsenal, and depending on Villa’s performance at West Ham, Bournemouth’s result at Everton may also be of interest.

Their future could fall upon the shoulder of local lad Jack Grealish.

The 24-year-old described Villa’s play-off final win last season as ‘the best day of my life’. His performance on Sunday could well better that day at Wembley, the low-shinpad wearing midfielder’s future still up in the air whatever the result. 

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Of course there will be no Villa support to spur them on when they travel into London. The fans shown on the virtual screens failing to garner the noise associated with the fans of the Midlands club.

They face a West Ham team coming into the fixture off the back of positive results against Watford and Manchester United which has secured David Moyes’ team their place in the Premier League for next season.

The Hammers’ additions of Tomas Soucek, who signed permanently yesterday, and Jarrod Bowen in January have propelled them into a situation which means Sunday’s result has no direct influence on their fate.

Moyes will be giving no freebies as West Ham look to finish the season with a win, the momentum from the back end of this season likely to flow into next campaign which is set to start in under two months time.

“It’s not going to be easy and I never expected it to be. I probably expected us to be maybe competing against Aston Villa to stay up a while back, but our players have done a great job to get into a safe position.

We have to credit the players for the way they’ve gone about their job and that we’ve not had to take it to the last game of the season for it to be decided from our point of view.

I know exactly how the other managers [at Aston Villa, Watford and Bournemouth] are feeling because I was feeling exactly the same way a couple of weeks ago. It’s so close and incredibly stressful for the managers but that’s the job we’re in. There’s so much at stake as well, so I understand exactly what it’s like for the managers and thankfully from our point of view we got ourselves out of it.”

Away from home, Aston Villa will either be jubilant or distraught at around 7pm on Sunday afternoon.

There may be tears of joy or tears of despair at the London Stadium from the Villa staff and player but there will be none from the crowd. Villa fans will be sat at home praying results go their way, but whatever happens tomorrow’s fixture constitutes a relegation fixture like no other that has come before it.

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