EFL: Managers and players react to escalating Covid-19 problems

A growing number of this weekend’s EFL games are being postponed because of Covid-19 cases.

More than a dozen have been called off in the Championship, League One and League Two.

Managers and players from across the leagues have been giving their reaction to the ongoing situation at press conferences and their opinions on what should happen next.

‘You start panicking when your phone goes off’ – Rotherham boss Paul Warne

“I think I mirror most people’s feelings, and I am concerned.

“I’ve had a couple of members of staff go down, so as soon as you think it’s in the building you start panicking, your phone goes off and you’re thinking ‘Oh no. Just tell me the bad news’.

“I listened to Steven Gerrard’s interview before Norwich v Aston Villa the other day, and he’s saying ‘Every day you go in and try to prepare and you’re expecting a curveball’.

“Fortunately today no players have been symptomatic or had any drama, but we’re travelling to Cambridge tomorrow and I’m panicking I’ll get up Saturday morning and see a text on my phone from the staff group – ‘Gaffer, we’ve got a problem. Two or three players aren’t feeling good’ or whatever.

“So I am not terrified, but I am pretty anxious about it. It seems like it’s going through places quick, which is a concern.”

[On suggestions a circuit-breaker pause should be put on the season] “I understand that if the football season was to cease for two weeks, would we come back and be in exactly the same situation? That’s something to be considered. It wouldn’t just suddenly go away for those two weeks.

“But I also understand it’s not just the football and the football players, it’s the people turning up in mass numbers; but I also get – because I’ve been in football since I was 15 – that Boxing Day games are hugely enjoyable things.

“It is difficult. I can hear myself saying it and I can hear half the fans disagreeing with me but it is a really sensitive subject at the moment. It’s a sad situation and it has escalated so quickly in the last seven days.”

‘Authorities haven’t done enough’ – Bristol City boss Nigel Pearson

“I worry for people’s health first and foremost. Sport’s a part of our community, a very important part of the social aspects of the local communities.

“If you look at us as an operation here we have an exceptionally high percentage of vaccinations, double vaccinations, within our workforce (95% rate) – players and staff alike. And we’ll also be encouraging people to have the booster.

“Just in terms of how we operate here, we’re doing everything we can to make the workplace as safe as possible.

“I think it’s important that we try and keep games available for the public to see.

“I think we’re not far off two years into it and it’s an ever-changing climate. We have to be able to deal with it otherwise the ramifications in terms of clubs going out of business is going to become a very real problem.

“I don’t see the point in the league being reactive to be honest, they should be on the front foot in driving the programme to get protection to the people who work in the industry, so that the industry can keep going and so the public can see the games.

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“Because our squad is relatively well protected – that doesn’t mean that we won’t have positive cases – but the very fact that we have a very high percentage of protection in the workplace I think our fixtures have, I imagine, a reasonable chance of going ahead.

“I can’t talk for how other clubs approach it. I certainly think the authorities, as far as I’m concerned, haven’t done enough.”

‘It’s only human to be worried’ – Blackpool manager Neil Critchley
“We’re taking appropriate steps here at the training ground to try and do everything we can to look after each other.

“It’s what we did before. We decided that it was the right thing to do again now. You’ve only got to see what’s happening all over the country and how quickly things seem to be escalating that it’s definitely an issue.

“Games are being called off and we’re looking for guidance around when would you call a game off, why would you call it off?

[Worried season will be interrupted?] “When I think about it, yes. I try not to think about it too much because it’s out of my control. I’m just trying to concentrate on what we can control which is to face Peterborough on Saturday.

“If you stop to think about it and watch the news or listen to the radio and you see the games get called off then yes I think it’s only human to be slightly worried and concerned about the situation the country is facing.

“Forget football, if you like, this is a bigger thing. A wider society issue and I think we’d all be slightly worried about the situation.”

‘We’ve all got families at home’ – Wigan captain Tendayi Darikwa
“It’s the same for everyone else outside of football. We try and do our best to stay as safe as possible. We know that a lot of games are getting called off around us around the country in different leagues and it’s important for us to try and stay as safe as possible and try and not to bring Covid into the training ground.

“We’ve all got families at home so it’s important for us to try and do the right things and limit the cases we might possibly get.

“We as players acknowledge the position we’re in and we’re privileged to be role models for so many people so we’ll do our best on and off the pitch to limit the cases we do get.

“It’s one of those things where at the minute you can see up and down the country you can’t avoid it. Hopefully we don’t get hit by it.

“It’s all about the safety of the players, staff and fans. If the league feels it’s necessary to call games off then so be it. Talking from a football point of view, obviously not, we’d like to continue playing games but we can’t do that unless things are safe.”

‘If you stop it, it has to be all four divisions’ – Rochdale boss Robbie Stockdale

“Whatever decision is made on a health decision and keeping people safe, we back that anyway.

“In terms of the break, there seems to be games getting called off all the time at the moment. My view is if they want to stop it, fine, but it’s got to be the four divisions.

“I think it’s unfair for teams to be unsure day-to-day whether they’re going to have a game so my view is if we’re having a circuit breaker, it’s got to be for everybody and if not there’s got to be clear guidelines to say what warrants a game coming off and what doesn’t.

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[On whether games should carry on but behind closed doors] “I hope not. I think, it’s way above my pay bracket to say what we can do and shouldn’t do but my view is football is not the same without supporters in the stadium.

“If it means reduced attendances or something along those lines, I think we should look to do that. If somebody tells me it’s unsafe and we need to stop straight away then we will follow those guidelines.”

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