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Everton have right to be irritated after tale of two PL postponements

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Songs of Praise, live snooker and Alan bloody Titchmarsh.

They are the terrestrial TV offerings when Everton should be playing Aston Villa on Sunday. Even the TV programme planners appear to be conspiring against Evertonians.

But is the Premier League finally getting its act together?

Everton officials were given a whole three days notice that their already rearranged trip to Villa Park was postponed.

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That is a significant improvement on the three hours notice they were given - after not being involved in any of the negotiations - of the postponement of their home match with Manchester City on December 28.

This time staff won't be en route to the stadium, players' pre-match preparations won't have been wasted and 2,000 fans won't have left their homes for meaningless Covid tests.

So far so positive. And public health simply has to be the overriding concern.

But there are inconsistencies which still irritate.

Premier League teams were told in September that requests for postponements will be rejected unless they have fewer than 14 players available, and that they will be obliged to utilise their Under 21 squads to ensure matches can be played. That dictat appears to have been shelved.

Leyton Orient forfeited a Carabao Cup tie to Spurs in September because they didn't have enough players to fulfill the tie.

Yet perhaps the most resource rich club in the country, Manchester City, were able to postpone their trip to Goodison Park on December 28 because they had an unspecified number of positive cases in their camp.

Everton's request for full disclosure was entirely understandable.

Let's be just a tinsy bit cynical here.

The Everton fixture would have been staged just 48 hours after City had hosted Newcastle - and won - and was due to be staged six days before City's potentially pivotal trip to Chelsea.

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City were able to fulfill that fixture - and win - with just three changes to their starting line up from the Newcastle game.

That "unspecified number" of cases appeared to have been small. Yet City were still able to call off the trip to Merseyside.

Aston Villa, on the other hand, have been particularly hard hit by Covid. Ten of their first team players tested positive for Covid a week ago and as a result their entire training camp has been closed all week.

Yet they were still asked to complete an FA Cup commitment against Liverpool a week ago with a team of Under-23 and Under-18 players.

The differences are obvious. The Premier League have until May to rearrange matches. FA Cup ties, with their limited calendar before the next round is staged, are more problematic.Then there is the issue of players needing to be be registered for particular competitions.

But while the powers that be are bending over backwards to try and preserve the integrity of the Premier League - as much as they can in a season like no other - no such luxury has been afforded to the FA Cup.

It wasn't always thus.

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On December 21, 1996 Middlesbrough claimed they could not fulfill a league fixture at Blackburn because of a flu bug sweeping their camp.

The Premier League was unsympathetic.

Boro were docked three points and fined £50,000. The points deduction was more damaging than the financial hit. Boro were relegated by two points.

Neither Sky nor BT are even showing any nostalgia shows from that era on Sunday lunchtime.

Ah well, at least the Hairy Bikers will be showing us how to make a gala pie...

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