City players can step up training as Premier League clubs approve initial protocol
PUBLISHED: 14:40 18 May 2020 | UPDATED: 18:13 18 May 2020
Norwich City have moved a step closer to resuming their survival fight, after all 20 Premier League clubs unanimously voted through the first stage of a return to team training.
The Canaries are expected to expand training sessions to small groups during this week, with social distancing rules still in place, once results of coronavirus testing have been received.
Project Restart is reportedly working towards a resumption date of June 12 for the remaining quarter of the campaign, after the government gave approval for the season to resume behind closed doors next month - as long as the country’s coronavirus reproduction rate remains low enough.
As part of that work to get the season back under way, Canaries players will be able to return to training in small non-contact groups, having been restricted to individual sessions in recent weeks.
City and all of the other top-flight clubs released a joint statement this afternoon, saying: “Premier League shareholders voted unanimously to return to small group training from Tuesday afternoon – the first step towards restarting the Premier League, when safe to do so.
“Step One of the Return to Training Protocol enables squads to train while maintaining social distancing. Contact training is not yet permitted.
“This first stage has been agreed in consultation with players, managers, Premier League club doctors, independent experts and the government. Strict medical protocols of the highest standard will ensure everyone returns to training in the safest environment possible.
“The health and wellbeing of all participants is the Premier League’s priority, and the safe return to training is a step-by-step process. Full consultation will now continue with players, managers, clubs, the PFA (Professional Footballers’ Association) and LMA (League Managers’ Association) as protocols for full-contact training are developed.”
It’s understood the City players will attend Colney in prearranged groups, arriving in kit and leaving immediately after the sessions, with facilities at the Lotus Training Centre still not fully in use and with equipment being thoroughly disinfected regularly.
Norwich have nine games of the season remaining, as well as a home FA Cup quarter-final against Manchester United.
Newcastle were one of the first top-flight clubs to issue confirmation that players had been tested at the club’s training ground, saying players would return on Tuesday, by which time all test results would be known.
A club statement reads: “Players and staff will arrive at pre-arranged times staggered in groups of a maximum of 10 players, with each working in groups of no more than five in separate areas of two pitches to allow for social distancing measures at all times.
“Players will arrive in their training kit, parking their cars at least three spaces apart, and will head straight out to the field, with no access to the main building.
“They will then leave immediately after training. All equipment - including balls, corner flags, cones, goalposts, GPS units, boots and gloves - will be regularly disinfected and players will wear protective snoods on their faces at all times.”
Players will be asked to use an app on a daily basis to record any symptoms.
Magpies boss, former Norwich defender Steve Bruce, explained: “It’s been a really difficult time, but I hope with the news that phase one is about to start - and I must stress that phase one looks as if it’s as safe as it can be - I’m sure everyone will be delighted that we’re trying to make that effort.
“In phase one we’re allowed to train four to five people on one pitch, so basically a player has a quarter of a pitch to work within, so social distancing is not a problem. We’ll train with eight to 10 at a time on two separate pitches.
“Everything is in place in the safety aspect. I’ve got no issues and I can tell the supporters the players and the staff are as safe as we possibly can be.
“We all understand that this virus isn’t going to go away just like that - it’s going to hang around a bit, but I think with the protocols in place we’ll do everything we possibly can to get up and running again.”
Watford captain Troy Deeney gave an insight into how the return to training could develop in the weeks that follow in a television interview this morning.
“Phase one is social distancing individual training with a coach; that’s no problem, that’s like going to the park,” Deeney told ITV’s Good Morning Britain. “Phase two will be next week: six days’ worth of training, three to six people training together with contact, and then six days after that you’re going into 11 v 11 and you can’t social distance with 11 v 11.
“I’m desperate to play football, it’s my job, I’ve got the best job in the world. But there has to be clear and safe measures for everybody, not just me. I saw (Chelsea and England striker) Tammy Abraham say his dad has asthma and he lives with him so he has concerns.
“It’s not just players at the bottom who are trying to stay in the league, it’s concerns right across the board. I have had a lot of texts from players who are worried about coming out and speaking. I would say 98pc are very much aware that phase one is very good. I would say 65 to 70pc of people are concerned with phase two. I’d say even higher after that.”