Why Sheffield United's international contingent have been reminded of their responsibilities amid Covid fears
Sheffield United’s international players were reminded of their responsibilities regarding social distancing and medical protocols introduced in response to the Covid-19 pandemic before reporting for duty earlier this week.
With cases of the virus reportedly rising on the continent, the likes of John Fleck, Oli McBurnie and Enda Stevens will all spend the next week effectively sealed within social bubbles as their respective countries’ football associations look to prevent outbreaks within their squads.
Although the measures they have introduced all comply with expert medical advice, The Star understands United provided guidance of their own when squads for the latest round of World Cup qualifiers, friendlies and under-21 European Championship qualifiers were first announced.
Speaking before his five year reign came to an end a fortnight ago, Chris Wilder confirmed “gentle reminders” had already been issued to those concerned earlier this month, with caretaker manager Paul Heckingbottom and his de facto assistant Jason Tindall are thought to have approached the subject once again following Sunday’s FA Cup quarter-final defeat by Chelsea.
“Obviously you mention it, it does crop up of course,” Wilder said. “But I don’t honestly think anyone needs to say too much to these lads because they all want to be involved, not only when they go away but also come back.”
“The worst thing for a footballer is not actually having the opportunity to play football,” he added. “Clearly, if they’re having to isolate themselves then they’re not going to be able to do that, so you know they’ll all be careful and do everything that’s asked of them to the absolute letter.”
United suffered an outbreak of the coronavirus earlier this term, when Billy Sharp, Phil Jagielka and several members of their backroom and support staff testing positive before their Premier League fixture against Burnley. A number of other players were also forced to undergo rapid screening procedures at Manchester Airport on the morning of the game, after being identified as close contacts of those found to have contracted the respiratory disease.
United’s pre-season training schedule was also disrupted when several members of their squad were forced to isolate after returning from holidays overseas.