James Shield's Sheffield United Column: This was the correct and the only sensible decision

Yes, I get it. Some players and coaches have concerns about ‘Project Restart’, which is absolutely fair enough.
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Everyone’s personal circumstances are different. A little bit, as the past fortnight has taught us, like some people’s take on social distancing and non-essential travel guidelines. Or how they apply, depending on your proximity to Downing Street, to be exact.

But let’s leave Dominic Cummings’ ‘World of the Absurd’ and return to Planet Football, where Troy Deeney has been one of the most vocal opponents of the decision to resume contact training and, in less than a fortnight’s time, Premier League competition itself. The Watford centre-forward, whose young son suffers from breathing difficulties, is understandably anxious about potentially increasing his exposure to Covid-19; a disease which attacks the respiratory system. He’s not being overly sensitive or even duplicitous, given the Hertfordshire club’s position towards the bottom of the table. No. Deeney is simply being protective of his family. Without, unlike someone who I don’t need to mention, insulting the public’s intelligence. The 31-year-old’s case highlights, no matter how hard folk try, to devise a solution which suits all concerned as the game tries to plot a course through the chaos created by the pandemic. Hopefully staff in non-footballing roles - ticket office workers, groundspeople and security officials will be treated with the same understanding by their employers if they also choose to stay away over the coming weeks.

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The fact remains, however, that competition officials are right to lift the fixture suspension they imposed in March - when the spread of virus was fast approaching its worst. And, given the measures PL clubs must adhere to since returning to work, that there is probably no safer place in Great Britain right now than a top-flight training complex. The last two rounds of the twice weekly screening programme which has been rolled out across the division have produced one - yes, one - positive result. Two thousand one hundred and thirty eight tests were carried out.

On June 17, Sheffield United and Aston Villa are scheduled to take part in the first match staged in this country for over three months. With Chris Wilder’s side chasing a place in Europe and the hosts fighting for survival, it is a contest of huge significance at both ends of the table. Unlike Nigel Pearson, Wilder and Dean Smith look like having a full complement of players to select from too, with Enda Stevens and John McGinn both recovering from the injuries they were nursing before semi-lockdown.

If they don’t, if one of their number is found to be carrying the virus, then so be it. The integrity of the campaign has already been compromised by a number of different factors. So one more doesn’t really matter. And while it pains me to say so, although I’ve proposed one new rule to try and protect it from being damaged further, that’s a price worth paying when you consider the alternative. Which is waiting for a vaccine and watching the sport disappear down a huge financial crevice.

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Sheffield United are seventh in the Premier League table and pushing for a place in Europe: Robin Parker/SportimageSheffield United are seventh in the Premier League table and pushing for a place in Europe: Robin Parker/Sportimage
Sheffield United are seventh in the Premier League table and pushing for a place in Europe: Robin Parker/Sportimage

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Stay safe and take care. Thank you. James.