Aston Villa prepare to host Sheffield United as Premier League returns

SHOWS:

BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND, UNITED KINGDOM (JUNE 17, 2020) (REUTERS - ACCESS ALL)

1. VARIOUS EXTERIORS OF THE HOLTE END STAND AT VILLA PARK, THE HOME STADIUM OF ASTON VILLA

2. SUPPORTERS' FLAGS IN THE STADIUM

3. VARIOUS OF EMPTY SEATS

4. STAFF MEMBER ARRANGING FLAGS

5. SEATING AND ASTON VILLA SIGN

6. VARIOUS OF STAFF MEMBER WEARING MASK NEAR TAPED OFF STEPS TO HOLTE END

7. TAPED OFF STEPS

8. VARIOUS OF 35-YEAR-OLD ASTON VILLA SUPPORTER, DANIEL RAINSFORD, OUTSIDE STADIUM WITH HIS CHILDREN

9. LION STATUE OUTSIDE STADIUM

10. (SOUNDBITE) (English) 35-YEAR-OLD ASTON VILLA SUPPORTER, DANIEL RAINSFORD, SAYING:

"Yeah, I've been a season ticket holder since August '91. I'm 35 now, so I've been coming since I was six. I've not missed a home game, so it feels quite sad to be, obviously, not involved tonight."

11. VARIOUS OF HOLTE END

12. (SOUNDBITE) (English) 35-YEAR-OLD ASTON VILLA SUPPORTER, DANIEL RAINSFORD, SAYING:

"It's greed, isn't it? It's got to be a purely financial reason. Obviously, Sky (UK broadcaster with majority of Premier League broadcast rights) need to be paid, and I just think it's being paid out of pure greed."

13. VARIOUS OF MEDIA TRUCK AND TECHNICIANS OUTSIDE THE NORTH STAND

14. (SOUNDBITE) (English) 35-YEAR-OLD ASTON VILLA SUPPORTER, DANIEL RAINSFORD, SAYING:

"I will watch it, but I won't watch it out of enjoyment. I'll watch it because I need to see my football team. I can't let a match be played and not see it. So I will see it, but I won't enjoy watching it."

15. SUPPORTERS' FLAGS IN STADIUM

16. (SOUNDBITE) (English) 35-YEAR-OLD ASTON VILLA SUPPORTER, DANIEL RAINSFORD, SAYING:

"I just think they should've maybe either found a way of voiding it or putting a bookmark in the season and restarting when it's safe for supporters to return."

17. RAILINGS AROUND STADIUM / TAPED OFF STEPS

18. VARIOUS OF RAINSFORD AND HIS CHILDREN

19. STADIUM INTERIOR VIEWED FROM OUTSIDE WEST STAND

20. SIDE OF WEST STAND / ADJACENT HOUSING

21. HOUSING BEHIND STADIUM

22. NORTH STAND ENTRANCE

23. SIGN READING (English): "VILLA PARK"

24. EXTERIOR OF THE DOUG ELLIS STAND

25. ELECTRONIC SIGN READING (English): "KEEP TWO METRES APART AT ALL TIMES" / "PLEASE WASH YOUR HANDS REGULARLY"

26. ENTRANCE GATE TO NORTH STAND, WHERE PLAYERS WILL ARRIVE

27. SECURITY GUARD

28. CARS PASSING STADIUM WITH TEMPORARY FENCE OUTSIDE / FLAGS INSIDE STADIUM

29. FLAGS INSIDE STADIUM

30. ASTON VILLA LOGO

31. EXTERIOR OF HOLTE END WITH TEMPORARY FENCING BLOCKING ENTRANCE

32. ELECTRONIC SIGN READING (English): "THANK YOU FOR VISITING VILLA PARK AND HELPING TO KEEP US ALL SAFE BY OBSERVING SOCIAL DISTANCING MEASURES" / SIGN CHANGING TO CORONAVIRUS ADVICE GRAPHIC

33. RAINSFORD AND HIS CHILDREN LEAVING STADIUM

34. ASTON VILLA SIGN ON SIDE OF STADIUM

35. TAPED OFF STEPS TO HOLTE END

STORY: Three months after the COVID-19 pandemic shut down Britain and left Liverpool agonisingly close to sealing the Premier League title, action resumes on Wednesday evening (June 17) when Aston Villa welcome Sheffield United to Villa Park in Birmingham.

The match is the first of the 92 Premier League fixtures crammed into the next five weeks, with Arsenal's trip to Manchester City taking place after the final whistle.

It will be a poignant evening, with both games played inside empty stadiums and marked before kickoff by a minute's silence for the more than 40,000 people to die of the virus in the UK.

Thirty-five-year-old Aston Villa supporter Daniel Rainsford hasn't missed a home match since 1991 - when he got his first season ticket aged six.

He's disappointed the season has been restarted with no fans in the stands and puts it all down to the lucrative deals between the Premier League and broadcasters.

Rainsford told Reuters he would watch the match on television out of loyalty but wouldn't enjoy the experience.

The season should only have been completed when it was safe for supporters to return to stadiums, he added.

Villa entered the shutdown in freefall with four consecutive defeats, leaving them second from bottom.

This may feel like a fresh start though and a win over Sheffield United would see Dean Smith's side leapfrog three clubs into 16th spot.

The bad news for Villa, however, is that Sheffield United will be hugely motivated, knowing three points would lift them to the heady heights of fifth.