‘The guys want to get back at it’ - City’s players want season to resume soon
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Norwich City’s players want to get back into Premier League action but still need more details on the safety of the season resuming behind closed doors, sporting director Stuart Webber has revealed.
Players have been in discussions with clubs and governing bodies about returning to training under social distancing guidelines next week, since the government confirmed on Monday that professional sport could potentially return next month without spectators, as long as the coronavirus pandemic rate of reproduction continues to drop.
With the financial impacts and legal complications of not playing the remaining quarter of the season expected to be vast and potentially unsustainable for clubs lower down the pyramid, the Premier League is attempting to return to action in June.
“It’s mixed. There’s lots of questions that need answering,” Webber said of the City players. “The general consensus is that the guys want to get back at it, once it’s safe to do so, because they are footballers.
“As much as football has been dragged through the mud a little bit in the last few weeks, they are young guys who want to get back on a football pitch and do their day job.
“However, footballers are also strong-minded people, stubborn people, and what they don’t want is to feel pressured into something.
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“They need to feel comfortable with it and that’s the Premier League’s job, to make players understand that it is going to be safe.”
Currently City’s players can only train individually, with small numbers restricted at Colney and under a strict time schedule, not being able to eat or change on site after their session has finished.
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Clubs have been issued with health and hygiene guidelines on how training can return safely, with some of the reported measures drawing ridicule from some media outlets, such as players needing to turn their head away after making a tackle - but Webber gave such matters short shrift.
Speaking to Sky Sports News, he continued: “The only thing I would say to bring some balance to it is that the Premier League are only talking about the first stage in returning to training.
“I think by the time we get through this step by step and we reach full contact training and games, I genuinely believe these things will be off the table, because if not we’re changing the rules of football – we may as well have 12 or 13-a-side if we’re going to start changing the rules.
“I’m less concerned about it. As we move through the stages some of these, shall we say, silly things will come away from it naturally. It’s trying to get this thing up and running if that’s something that appeases the government, then we can’t tackle anyway at the moment because it’s non-contact.
“I wouldn’t read too much into it. Would I be happy sending my player into full-contact training or a game with that rule, no, because that fundamentally changes a tackle technique that maybe a player has done all of his life, which could then cause a player to get injured or an opposition player to get injured.
“Of course, safety is paramount here, not only from a Covid point of view but the sport itself has to be safe. We can’t do anything to jeopardise that or make it any worse.”