Aston Villa kick things off but it's Bolton and Southend trips I'm looking forward to

At 6pm on Wednesday, Aston Villa take on Sheffield United in the first Premier League game for what seems like aeons.

Monday, 15th June 2020, 7:45 am
Geoff Thornton wonders when Reds fans will be allowed into games

Elite football is on the way back although it may not seem an awful lot like the way we remember it.

At lunchtime on Saturday the Championship returns with a key London derby between Fulham and Brentford. What more could you ask for at the resumption than a promotion six-pointer?

It sounds good on paper but I wonder what effect the empty stadiums will have on the players as they try to rekindle the spark. We are in for a very busy period of matches in the top two divisions, many of which will be available on free-to-air TV. For football fans all over the country it will hopefully be the start of the return to normality we all crave.

Sol Campbell in the dugout at Roots Hall, Southend, where Crawley fans will look forward to visiting / Picture: Getty

Crawley Town supporters now know that they will be able to add another name to the list of the club’s league opponents as Bolton Wanderers propped up League One and have been relegated.

Despite their long and admirable history they have previously played in this division. In 1987/88 they finished third and gained an immediate return to the third tier. I will certainly look forward to adding theirs to my list of grounds visited.

I will also be pleased to return to Roots Hall when the Reds play Southend United. It will surely be recognised as a local derby since we are only 25 miles from the English Channel and all of our opponents are located in the opposite direction!

On balance we may end up travelling more miles to away games as each of the play-off contenders is in easy reach and National League champions Barrow are many miles away.

Mind you this presupposes that we will be allowed to attend games when the new season starts. Discussion up till now has suggested that fans may not be allowed back into stadiums until the New Year. That will lead to some earnest representations from lower league clubs for whom the balance between gate income and sponsorship is much closer than it is in the Premier League and Championship.

I’d very much like to see the Reds kick off their home programme with at least 2500 inside the People’s Pension Stadium. That is a distance away yet and almost certainly it will not be as early as the first week of August. There will be a number of issues, some doubtless controversial, before we get to that point.

In the past week another piece has been put into place in the club’s plans with George Francomb gaining a two-year extension to his contract. If Dannie Bulman were no longer playing George would have enjoyed more games and probably we would also be welcoming back Jimmy Smith. We have certainly had some great players at our club since we joined the Football League.