‘It sounded like 80,000’: how it felt to have fans back in Premier League

·6-min read

Brighton

The Amex’s reopening could not have gone more perfectly to script. Brighton’s comeback sparked wild celebrations in all four stands but the atmosphere had been electric from the first whistle. Everyone present seemed desperate to make up for lost time and there was barely a pause for breath even when, having heartily booed Riyad Mahrez seconds before he created the opener, they saw Manchester City pull ahead. Although we will never know for sure, there was a strong sense that the ferocity of the reaction when Danny Welbeck went down under João Cancelo’s challenge made it easier for Stuart Attwell to issue the latter a gamechanging red card. To seasoned watchers of closed-doors football at Brighton it was clear throughout that the game’s intensity was several notches higher in front of such exuberant backing. Nick Ames

Brighton fans witnessed an unlikely victory against the champions Manchester City.
Brighton fans witnessed an unlikely victory against the champions, Manchester City. Photograph: Gareth Fuller/PA

Burnley

Credit to the club, first of all, who did not charge the 3,500 fans who attended Wednesday’s game against Liverpool for their tickets and instead asked them to consider a donation to NHS Charities Together. Burnley were repaid with fierce backing, from the warm-up to the end-of-season salute, although there was deafening silence when Liverpool’s goals hit the net. For some reason Andy Robertson was booed whenever in possession. Sadio Mané then became the pantomime villain after a theatrical attempt to win a free-kick and Chris Kavanagh, like all referees, discovered his days of officiating with minimal protest are over. Andy Hunter

Chelsea

The crowd undoubtedly gave Chelsea an extra surge of energy during their win over Leicester. It sounded more like 80,000 inside Stamford Bridge and it wasn’t just about the noise. It was nice focusing on the little things as well: the applause that greeted Édouard Mendy when the goalkeeper came out for his warm-up, the sight of old friends catching up in the Shed End, the constructive criticism of Mike Dean’s refereeing. The fans were part of the show. So much of it sounds trivial, such as the back and forth with Leicester’s James Maddison, but it made the evening far more entertaining. Jacob Steinberg

Crystal Palace

The appetite around Selhurst Park to give Roy Hodgson a rousing send-off was clear. Hodgson was serenaded on to the pitch and his team were roared on from the stands, creating a feisty atmosphere that perhaps egged on some overzealous challenges by the hosts. “Same old Arsenal, always cheating” rang out after Kieran Tierney took exception to a clip from Joel Ward: surely a sign that nature is healing. There was audible consternation at VAR, which diluted the fun of Christian Benteke’s equaliser and the late sucker punch from Gabriel Martinelli. During the second half Hodgson responded to requests for a wave from the Holmesdale Road end; after full-time Palace’s fans, largely packed together more tightly than those at Brighton the previous night and giving the impression of a “normal” crowd, stood in a reverential hush to hear one last address from their manager. NA

Roy Hodgson salutes Crystal Palace’s fans on a night when he got a rousing send-off.
Roy Hodgson salutes Crystal Palace’s fans on a night when he got a rousing send-off. Photograph: Tom Jenkins/The Guardian

Everton

“We can’t underestimate the difference the fans made,” Séamus Coleman said. “We have been crying out for it.” Everton have had three games with supporters – two in December, one in May – and won all, but triumphed in only three of 16 in an empty Goodison Park. “No excuse,” said Coleman. Carlo Ancelotti spoke in jest: “We don’t need to sign new players if the supporters are in the stadium next season.” But Everton were roused. They rediscovered their intensity in their second-half performance. When their anthem, It’s A Grand Old Te, rang around Goodison, it felt like the Everton of old returned along with the public. Richard Jolly

Manchester United

What lingers from Old Trafford is the mood: 10,000 fans emanating a festival vibe that was Sunday afternoon at Glastonbury as sunshine bathed the stadium and Manchester United welcomed Fulham, against a backdrop of protest. While the latter was present via “Go Glazers Out” placards held by supporters and chants against the owners, what dominated was a heartening joyousness and connection between the faithful and their adored players. And when Edinson Cavani’s 40-yard sand-wedge hit the back of the net at the Stretford End this was a moment that sent the place ballistic and was wonderful to witness. Jamie Jackson

Edinson Cavani celebrates his goal in front of delighted fans at Old Trafford.
Edinson Cavani celebrates his in front of delighted fans at Old Trafford. Photograph: Tom Jenkins/The Guardian

Newcastle United

It was an emotional evening on Gallowgate and a reminder of how much human connectivity we have forfeited. Players’ faces lit up when they ran out to a high-decibel welcome and a fairly ordinary match was transformed into an electric, noisy, life-affirming occasion. Allan Saint-Maximin’s mesmeric dribbling skills and Joe Willock’s winner prompted joyous chanting but Steve Bruce was barracked sporadically – although the chorus of “he’s got a big fat heed” seemed humour-tinged. The Premier League was told off for “taking the piss” in blocking Newcastle’s Saudi Arabian takeover and there were some wistful calls for Rafael Benítez’s managerial reinstallation. Louise Taylor

Tottenham Hotspur

Daniel Levy did not prioritise the acoustics at Tottenham’s magnificent stadium for this – to trap the anger in, to allow the calls for his departure to reverberate. The first of several “Levy Out” chants came on 43 minutes as the rookie caretaker, Ryan Mason, watched his team trail 2-1 to Aston Villa and teeter on the brink of implosion. It was a horrible occasion for Spurs, the angst of the players infecting the returning fans and bouncing back with interest; the general lack of direction further reflected in the shambolic scenes after full-time, when some supporters stayed to demand the players come out for a lap of appreciation. The PA announcer urged them to leave – in a socially distanced manner – which provoked more booing. Eventually, the players were coaxed out. Sheepish barely covered it. Why on earth would Harry Kane want to leave all this? David Hytner

West Bromwich Albion

Allowed in for the first time in more than 14 months, 6,000 were spread across three sides of the Hawthorns and they electrified the ground, their rousing fervour contributing to a thrilling match. They took the opportunity to express their feelings on various issues, serenading Matheus Pereira with chants of “we want you to stay” and roaring their opposition to VAR even when a video review ruled out a goal by the opposition. They showed their civic-mindedness when the ball was kicked into the stands by obeying instructions to hand it to stewards rather than chuck it back on to the pitch. And they proved their respect for tradition by belting out “Shit on the Villa”. Paul Doyle

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