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Posted: Tuesday, June 22nd 2021
Thursday, June 25th 2020
City return to Ashton Gate this weekend (Sunday, June 28th), the first time they will have played competitive football at home since March 7th and Korey Smith says players will have to create their own atmosphere.
No fans will be permitted into the ground as per guidelines set out during the COVID-19 pandemic, with only key staff and players from both City and their opponents, Sheffield Wednesday, allowed inside.
Season Card holders will be able to run into Robins TV Live to watch the match, including all the pre-match build up, analysis and post-match thoughts. But for the players, it means a change to the normal proceedings ahead of the 12pm kick-off.
“Everyone is in the same boat but you have to switch on and have the mentality that you want to win the game, do well and create your own atmosphere,” said Smith as he looks forward to Sunday’s Sky Bet Championship fixture.
“Ideally you have the fans to help in certain moments but it’s important that everyone here does a big cheer and gets behind the boys because to hear those voices is a big help.
“We want to say we appreciate the fans’ support. It’s great that 10,000 supporters logged in to view the [Blackburn Rovers] game. It was a disappointing game and it wasn’t a nice drive home.
“I’m sure people who paid to watch didn’t enjoy the game but that’s football: you win some, you lose some and you have to move on to the next match. We appreciate them and hopefully we can give them something to smile about in the weeks to come.”
"Everyone is in the same boat but you have to switch on and have the mentality that you want to win the game, do well and create your own atmosphere."
Much has been written about the impact behind-closed-doors games is having on home advantage, but City’s longest-serving midfielder says knowing the BS3 turf can still work in favour of the Robins.
The players have been training at the stadium as well as their regular Failand base ahead of the clash with Garry Monk’s Owls and Smith recognises Ashton Gate as a “special” place.
He said: “Of course ideally we’d love to have all the fans here, cheering us on and getting behind us but unfortunately with everything going on that can’t happen.
“It’s special any time we get to play here and we’ve been training here. Every time we play here the pitch is amazing, the ground staff have done a great job and the boys know the pitch and look really sharp on it. Hopefully we can use that to our advantage on Sunday and get a win,” he said.
Drinks breaks have also been commonplace since football resumed, as players will often be competing in warmer weather during June and July.
These breaks could prove key for players’ fitness and strain on the body. Elite level football has seen a number of players pick up injuries since Project Restart and in Germany, there was a spike in muscular injuries, reported as a near 250% increase after the first three rounds.
Smith said: “Even when I’m watching on TV I think ‘oh no, not another break’ but it is very important.
“The injury rate of pulled muscles was up in Germany and everyone needs to realise those little things help, being hydrated and getting the gels is important. It’s been a very long break but the boys have worked really hard, we’re fit.
“The weather has got warmer and that will come into effect playing three games in a week but it’s the same for both teams. We have worked hard though so hopefully that fitness will come through," he said.
Fans are reminded that as Sunday's lunchtime fixture will be broadcast live on Sky Sports, the club is unable to sell £10 matchday stream passes to non-Season Card holders. Season Card holders have exclusive streaming access this weekend, however, audio passes are available to non-Season Card holders for just £2.50.
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