Welcome back to the American Express Community Stadium for this afternoon’s Premier League game with Aston Villa. We extend our welcome to Villa’s players, staff, officials and supporters.
Steven Gerrard’s team got the better of us last time out at Villa Park in what was the opening match of the former Liverpool and England captain’s tenure in the Midlands. Two goals in the final six minutes trumped our 63% possession on the day.
Six points now separate us from Villa ahead of today’s game and, with a game in hand over us, we can be sure our visitors will be looking to close the gap as we move into the final third of another fiercely competitive Premier League campaign.
A week ago, our disappointing loss to Burnley – who followed up with a midweek win over Spurs, themselves conquerors of Manchester City a few days earlier – and Villa’s own home defeat to Watford perfectly demonstrated just how tough this league is.
There is little room for error at the highest level of the game, and even the slightest loss of form or intensity of performance can be seized upon and punished in the race for Premier League points and, in Burnley and Watford’s case, for Premier League survival.
We know that with another capacity crowd today – alongside Liverpool’s forthcoming visit, this match has been sold out for some time – we can be sure of a great Amex atmosphere, and we hope a terrific match between two good footballing teams.
Off the pitch, we are delighted to have finished in second place in the Premier League’s Fan Engagement Survey. Given the challenges of staging matches this season, this is a fantastic result for our operations, ticketing, supporter services and catering staff.
It takes a great and often unseen and unsung team effort off the pitch to ensure matchdays work safely and efficiently, and it’s a great pleasure for me to thank our staff for their hard work and success in surveys where the outcome is determined by fans.
We’re also grateful to the thousands of fans who responded to the Premier League survey, and who have recognised the efforts of our staff during a season in which we have so often asked for the support and co-operation of our fans while COVID remained a threat.
Looking forward, and with COVID restrictions now effectively lifted in all areas of society, we are hopeful the Premier League’s own training ground and stadium protocols will soon follow suit, enabling us to properly return to normal.
It’s been a very challenging couple of years for football clubs up and down the country, and not least for so many people in every walk of life. Despite the challenges and hardships faced by so many, your continued support has been absolutely magnificent.
In this regard, we’re delighted by the response to our new season-ticket pricing and packages for the 2022/23 season. This season’s record numbers of season-ticket holders and club members, and a sold-out 1901 Club, has given us a very solid base.
We know that many people have faced financial pressures during COVID, and may do so for a while yet while the effects of the pandemic unwind, so we sincerely hope that the season-ticket price freeze will help people to retain their season-tickets.
After Villa’s visit today, we face a very tough run of fixtures leading up to the next international break in March. A visit to a revitalised Newcastle United at St James’ Park next weekend kicks off a very busy March. We then have two big home matches in four days – Liverpool, live on TV in a fortnight at 12:30, followed by a midweek visit from Antonio Conte’s Tottenham Hotspur, and then a trip to the north-west and the Etihad Stadium to face current champions Manchester City – albeit this game will be moved should City progress in The FA Cup against Peterborough United.
Like every club, we’ve had to contend with COVID, other illness, injury and suspension in recent matches, so it will be good to have most, if not all, of our squad available for selection and competing for places in this run of forthcoming matches.
All of our players and staff have been absolutely magnificent this season, and I know how grateful they are, and we all are, for your continued support, both here at the Amex and on the road. Thanks again.
Enjoy today’s match.
You can pick up your programme on matchday, or order online here.