Football

Crystal Palace's Andros Townsend keen to resume contact training

Crystal Palace winger Andros Townsend said players are "desperate" to return to contact training and that he is encouraged by the results of the English Premier League's testing regimen for Covid-19.

The second round of testing returned two positives - with Bournemouth saying one of their players was now self-isolating - as the government issued guidelines yesterday on the next step for athletes to resume close-contact training.

"We're desperate to get back to normality and contact training," Townsend told Sky Sports.

"At the start of the week, you're worried about being near other players but, as the days go on, you get more and more comfortable with each positive test.

"If it were two people from the same club (who had tested positive), you'd start to ask questions about how it had spread around the training ground.

"But the fact it's at two different clubs and they've kept it from spreading shows that we're in the safest workplace in the country and it gives us confidence to move on to the next phase of testing."

SMALL GROUPS

With officials eyeing a mid-June restart, EPL players have returned to non-contact training in small groups with their clubs last week, after the UK government published its phase one guidelines on May 13.

"We're training in groups of eight, so there are 16 players from the squad I just haven't seen," Townsend said.

"Hopefully, with each successful round of testing, we can get a few more players back into training and some time next week we can move on to phase two."

Townsend's hope may turn into reality soon, after the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport guidelines spelled out the second part of a five-stage framework to enable athletes to get match fit before any top-level competition resumes.

Clubs will vote on proposals for returning to contact training tomorrow.

"Stage Two training can be described as the resumption of close-contact training where pairs, small groups and/or teams will be able to interact in much closer contact," it said.

Examples given include close-quarters coaching, combat sports sparring, team sports tackling and the sharing of technical equipment such as balls, gloves and pads.

The guidelines said close-contact training will be allowed only when sports bodies, clubs and teams deem conditions right to do so, following consultation with athletes, coaches and support staff. A documented risk assessment and risk mitigation strategy is also needed. - REUTERS

Football