Smith confirms fresh Covid symptoms in City camp

Norwich City were a long way short for Dean Smith in a 2-0 Premier League defeat to Aston Villa

Norwich City were a long way short for Dean Smith in a 2-0 Premier League defeat to Aston Villa - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Dean Smith refused to hide behind excuses after his injury and illness-ravaged Norwich City squad slipped to a 2-0 Premier League defeat on Tuesday night against Aston Villa. 

Smith’s reunion with his old club turned sour before kick-off with more Covid-related call offs to add to a growing casualty list. 

Pierre Lees-Melou, Josh Sargent and Lukas Rupp were all absent, with Smith confirming afterwards some of his players are showing symptoms. 

Christos Tzolis was already self-isolating after testing positive and sporting director Stuart Webber consulted the Premier League before the game, with recent opponents Tottenham and Manchester United both having league games postponed due to outbreaks.  

“We had some symptomatic players who had to pull out. Some have been confirmed, some haven’t at this stage,” said Smith. “Stuart spoke to the Premier League regarding some guidance on the situation when we have symptomatic players in the camp. Do we keep them around?

Our concern is we had just played Tottenham, and they have had an outbreak, and we have just played Manchester United, and they have had an outbreak.

"We wanted some guidance in case it was not fair on our players and staff. Or Aston Villa. 

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“I would normally name the team the day before. We had eight players who could reasonably be playing in the first team and the fact that Ozan (Kabak) then goes down in the first half, and we have to bring on Sam Byram for his first appearance in nearly two years, underlines we were down to the bare bones.

"I don’t want to make that an excuse but there are reasons we were off it. I think Ozan had some cramps in his calves. He has not played an awful lot of football.” 

Villa took full advantage with Jacob Ramsey and Ollie Watkins scoring in each half to keep City rooted to the bottom. 

“First half we were miles off it. That is as poor as we have been,” said the Norwich boss. “When we played Southampton I thought they were excellent in the first half. But we were just miles off it in this game.

"We were passive without the ball and slow on the ball. Not a great combination. The goal summed it up. Jacob has picked it up on the halfway line and we haven’t laid a glove on him and he gets into our box and scores.

"Very disappointed with that first half. 

“We were better second half, but we didn’t have to do much to be better. It is quite easy to ask them to get closer when they have the ball and move it quicker when we have it. Unfortunately, we are not taking those big moments when they come along.

"Kenny McLean has got a massive chance and if he scores then it is a different game. I thought we looked fresher as the game wore on, but Villa were comfortable defensively because we never showed the quality we needed in the final third.”