Players MUST adhere to social distancing rules… Prem clubs are only as strong as their weakest link – The Sun

IN 2015 no one would have answered this question correctly “Where do you see yourself in five years?”

We are indeed in strange and unusual times.


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 West Ham have returned to training at a social distance this week

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West Ham have returned to training at a social distance this weekCredit: News Group Newspapers Ltd

But we are learning to adapt and, most importantly, learning to take responsibility for ourselves and others.

Being as safe as possible is our own responsibility and, undeniably, that of employers, too.

This aspect was foremost in the mind of pro football when non-contact social distance training commenced last week.

It’s the first step of a three-step plan to return to playing. Second step is contact training and third is playing matches.

The players, manager David Moyes and the medical team at West Ham have been involved in every step of the return to training plan.

I have held numerous zoom meetings with our players and set up a working party of players, management, medical and operation teams to ensure we all know what needs to be done to ringfence the training ground in safety.

Meetings with the players have been great. They are energetic, solution-driven, positive and above all determined to protect themselves, their colleagues and loved ones.

I have been extremely impressed with the intelligence, knowledge and commitment shown to ensuring we get things right.

From the banter going on during the calls they are on really good form!

We have never been closer or communicated better.

This is one of the stand-out positives of this dreadful crisis.

Before they could return to the training ground everyone was tested and I am delighted and relieved to say we received negative tests across the club.

So now we know that our training HQ is Covid-19 free. It’s our job to keep it that way.

While the training ground was shut, our operations staff and medical team have done a great job keeping our facilities safe and minimising each risk.

The players were sent the new Covid-19 operational manual, which has nothing to do with liability and everything to do with keeping the virus out of our working environment.

It provides guidelines to return to training from having a temperature check on arrival to completing a symptoms check for players and households. This is our form of trace and track.

Players arrive, put on their boots and collect their GPS vests from a marquee.

Each player is told in advance which is his pitch, and each pitch has a separate car park space for every player working on it.

New toilets have been set up alongside each pitch exclusive to the specific players using it.

They must wash their hands for 30 seconds before and after use.

We have never been closer or communicated better.

There is a ban on spitting and nose clearing. Face masks or a snood are worn at all times and players must keep two metres apart with no hugging, handshakes, fist bumps or high fives.

They bring their own water bottle and wash their own kit (at 60C!).

Outside of training, they must adhere to Government guidelines on social distancing, which keeps everyone safe — as we are only as strong as our weakest link.

And from now on, there will be testing twice a week.

There are still issues. How we administer treatment to the players who need it in a non-contact environment is one.

Players refusing to train is an issue at several clubs, too.

But no doubt there will be more questions that need answering as we progress towards playing. The length of time between training and playing is a big one. Many managers are asking how can any athlete have ten weeks off specialist training and be fit to compete?

An even bigger question is what happens if one team gets a series of positive test results when games commence?

We all know what happened when Arsenal head coach Mikel Arteta contracted it in March — the season was suspended. Will that happen again?

Medical teams are worried what happens if a player gets injured — where does he get treatment as private hospitals are closed and going to A&E brings other risks.

Only by co-operation and straight-talking can we solve them.

Clubs or players shouldn’t be criticised for airing their concerns.

They shouldn’t be accused of self-interest when they ask worrying and difficult questions, most of which still remain unanswered.

And absolutely no one sitting on the comfort of a sofa in their own home should criticise players who feel vulnerable. It’s unfair and wrong.

 Karren Brady reveals spirits among the West Ham camp remain high

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Karren Brady reveals spirits among the West Ham camp remain highCredit: PA:Press Association

I am being told that players at several different clubs are anxious about a quick progression to phase two (contact training) but they are relying on the promises made to them from the Premier League that there will be full consultation first.

The League will have to be able to answer the difficult questions and deal with players’ confusion that they will be asked to strictly observe social distancing at all times and yet ignore all this for training and matches.

But no doubt the players and the Professional Footballers’ Association will take comfort from Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden’s cast-iron promise that contact training and playing “will only go ahead if it is safe to do so”.

Simon Jordan asks players where they draw the line when it comes to Premier League return

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