Premier League return: Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher welcome resumption
Sky Sports will show 64 live Premier League games, and make 25 available free-to-air when the season resumes
Last Updated: 07/06/20 1:11pm
Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher have both expressed their delight at the Premier League's imminent return after initial concerns over the resumption of this season.
Neville has admitted he had started to doubt whether the current campaign would resume and believes Crystal Palace chairman Steve Parish, who defended attempts to get the season back up and running, was pivotal in the league's agreed restart.
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The Premier League will provisionally resume on Wednesday, June 17 and Sky Sports will make 25 games available 'free to air' - including Everton vs Liverpool on the first full weekend back - allowing the whole nation to be part of the return of live sport.
"Making 25 games available for everyone in the country was a huge thing to do, and the right thing to do," Neville told The Football Show.
"Obviously, we work for Sky and know how important it is and how much Sky pay for the Premier League, but it's also really important at this time to demonstrate an approach which is inclusive. I think that on Thursday, that was the masterstroke of the announcement.
"It allowed other broadcasters in this country to show games that haven't even paid for them.
"We're looking forward to it obviously with every game to be live, with games shown to everybody in the country which I think is going to be a huge positive."
Neville: Lack of leadership cast doubt over everything
Sky Sports will show 64 live Premier League games when the season resumes. In addition to the 39 matches already scheduled to be broadcast exclusively live on Sky Sports before the coronavirus interruption, 25 more matches will be available on both Sky Sports Premier League and Sky's free-to-air Pick channel.
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By the time Manchester City host Arsenal and Sheffield United travel to face Aston Villa on June 17, it will have been 100 days since the last Premier League match, Leicester's 4-0 thrashing of Villa on Monday Night Football on March 9.
There has been a total of 12 positive results after three rounds of more than 2,700 tests. Neville admits work still lies ahead in the efforts to bring about the Premier League's safe return, but believes the procedure carried out in the German Bundesliga has helped allay concerns.
Neville added: "In the initial phase, I thought the Premier League would come back - I was 100 per cent sure. And then about four or five weeks ago, the lack of communication and lack of leadership I felt cast doubt over everything. The country was at its peak [in the pandemic] at that time.
"I do feel a big moment was Crystal Palace chairman Steve Parish coming out and speaking - it took courage and bravery from him to do that and it was against the grain at the time. He was the first person to come out with any real authority and speak in such a way that made sense about how the game could restart.
"I still, in the back of my mind, hope and pray everything moves safely right the way through the process. We're not out of the woods yet, but it's a big moment. The Bundesliga has helped in terms of giving confidence to the players, the managers and the Premier League."
Carra: PL return has given everyone a buzz
To celebrate the return of the Premier League, Sky Sports will also launch a host of innovative new features and updates to give fans an even more immersive experience and share the moments live with family and friends on virtual platforms.
New staggered kick-off times will be used for the remaining 92 matches, and Jamie Carragher echoed Neville's sentiments on the Premier League's return after a long absence.
"I'm excited for it," he told The Football Show. "It's probably similar in some way to when the season starts back again, when we're off for the summer. I think we're all in the same boat, we all love our football, and that will be the same for a lot of people up and down the country, and it did give you that little bit of excitement and buzz that it was coming back.
"At different times when we've been off, I've felt confident the game would resume and at other times I've felt it's not going to happen. Different things every day were popping up at different times and there were different problems being brought to the Premier League, whether from different clubs or obviously safety issues, and it felt like a huge task to get over all the obstacles.
"At times over this process we've been critical of different things but to bring the 20 clubs with them, the players now, broadcasters, not just in this country but around the world as well. I don't think it's been easy at all but when you set that date in stone now it's something for us all to look forward to over the next few weeks.
"I think we all got a little bit excited as well when the Bundesliga started just to watch a few games, but this is now on a different level now in terms of the Premier League coming back. It's not just about being excited about it coming back. It's a serious situation for a lot of clubs in terms of staying up. That's the thing that's really at stake in the next nine games to be played.
"It looks like there will be games on every day at different times. We're going to be very busy and that's what we want."
'There was never going to be a soft introduction'
Pending Manchester City's appeal against their two-season Champions League ban, the top five teams in the Premier League, barring City, will qualify for next season's Champions League. At the moment, that means Manchester United in fifth would join Chelsea, Leicester and Liverpool in the competition.
But with only six points separating United from even 11th-placed Crystal Palace, there is plenty to play for in the last nine games of the campaign.
Neville said: "The thrilling thing about the first set of full fixtures, with the Merseyside derby, United against Tottenham and all the games of importance at the bottom, there was never going to be a pre-season or a soft introduction.
"There had been some suggestions of there being four to five weeks of training required for players to come back in before playing but I was delighted when they announced the return was happening so quickly.
"It just means that the players can really focus now. If you'd said to the players they would be starting in the first week of July, it would've been different. Two-and-a-half weeks away now from the first game is a big thing and to me it's the right thing that we get this over as quickly as possible, let alone get it started as quickly as possible."
On whether United have in fact been boosted by the return to fitness of the likes of Marcus Rashford and Paul Pogba ahead of their first game back against Spurs, Neville added: "I think Tottenham are going to have Son and Harry Kane back so, for both those clubs, they are going to be confident that they are in better shape because of the injury recoveries.
"We have no idea how each club is going to return. That is the one thing about this. There's no form guide to look at in respect of the fact the gap has been so big since they last played. We don't know what's going to happen. Liverpool could lose all nine games."
Are football fans being treated differently?
The Premier League announced earlier this month it will support a trophy presentation for Liverpool if they are crowned champions and it is safe to do so.
Jurgen Klopp's side, who are 25 points clear at the top of the table, only need two more wins to clinch their first top-flight title in 30 years.
Deputy Chief Constable Mark Roberts, the UK's football policing lead, says the majority of matches will be played home and away as scheduled with a small number of fixtures possibly taking place at neutral venues.
When asked if football fans are treated differently, Neville responded: "I think it's just purely the scale of football. Let's be clear, if Liverpool won the league in an ordinary period of time there would be hundreds and hundreds of thousands of Liverpool fans on the streets.
"It's such a big moment for the club in the sense that they haven't won it for so long. It's a momentous moment. It's a great achievement in its own right let alone the fact that the club haven't won it in so long.
"That is the only potential flashpoint that I can see, and I don't think it's because Liverpool fans can't be trusted in the sense of their behaviour.
"I think they would go out in their cars but the situation I could potentially see is that if they went out in their cars with the flags out of the window, they would still be socially distancing, they would still be in their households, but they could be blocking the routes potentially to hospitals or potentially blocking the routes for health and safety procedures.
"I don't think football fans are being treated differently, it's just the sheer scale of the number of Liverpool fans. If you said: 'You can go and celebrate, you can go out', you know what it would be like. It would be absolute bedlam around Liverpool, and rightly so.
"You would absolutely think it would be the case. So, I think the reason they are nervous about it is purely because of that, I would imagine."
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