Football

Rushed restart might mean weakened EPL teams

Hodgson says Palace won't have a problem if players are uncomfortable with returning

Some English Premier League clubs could be not at full strength if the season is rushed back amid the Covid-19 crisis.

Over the weeks, players such as Newcastle United's Danny Rose, Brighton's Glenn Murray and Manchester City stars Sergio Aguero and Raheem Sterling have voiced their worries about being forced back into action too soon, as hundreds of people are still dying from the coronavirus in Britain every day.

Crystal Palace manager Roy Hodgson admitted in an interview with beIN Sports that Eagles chairman Steve Parish would not have a problem if some players were uncomfortable returning to the pitch.

"This is going to be a matter for the individual and a matter for the club at the end of the day," Hodgson said.

"I would be very surprised, knowing my club and Steve Parish as I do, that he would not be sympathetic to a player that came and said: 'Look, I have serious reservations about playing'."

Some top-flight bosses are also understood to have expressed concerns about the plan to play from mid-June when they spoke during a League Managers Association meeting on Wednesday.

However, Tottenham Hotspur manager Jose Mourinho has insisted that he is "desperate" for the EPL to return.

"I have not asked for any delay," Mourinho said in a statement yesterday. "I want to train, and I am desperate for the Premier League to return as soon as it is safe to do so, particularly now we are seeing other leagues preparing to return to action."

Sheffield United defender George Baldock, 27, also said he is ready to play, telling The Times: "As a footballer, I can't wait. I'm chomping at the bit to get back, but we understand we have to listen to the government and the Premier League. It has to be safe for everyone."

While some players might feel safe to return, there remains other issues.

The chief of Greater Manchester Police said he is concerned fans would still congregate at stadia even if they are not allowed in to watch EPL games due to Covid-19 restrictions.

"Liverpool coming to Manchester City I have no doubt would attract crowds, whether they're allowed in the ground or not. It needs very careful thinking through," Chief Constable Ian Hopkins told reporters.

From a policing perspective, it would not be an impossible challenge, but Hopkins added that "we're in... difficult times, and it remains a health issue so the thought of large groups of people coming together and not practising social distancing is a difficult one".

More than 233,000 people have been infected by Covid-19 in Britain and more than 33,000 people have died. - REUTERS, AFP

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