Suspensions, EFL charges and not banning selfies - Sheffield Wednesday look ahead to three weeks away from football

Sheffield Wednesday and the majority of the footballing world finds itself in unchartered territory after the coronavirus outbreak finally took hold of the UK’s sporting calendar.

Friday, 13th March 2020, 5:02 pm

On Friday the EFL took the decision to suspend all football league matches until April 3 at the very earliest, with contingencies being discussed in the very possible event of an extension to that football freeze.

From a Hillsborough lens, it means that matches against Nottingham Forest, Bristol City and title-chasing West Brom have been spiked, to be scheduled for a later date.

But it means so much more. Like every one of the 91 English clubs now at a standstill for the next fortnight, bills, players – and indeed employees – still have to be paid, players’ fitness needs to be maintained and the ticking over of the club must go on in whatever form possible.

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With the season now presumably extended, does that offer more time for any ramification from the club’s ongoing battle with the EFL to take place this season rather than next?

Wednesday had four players wither injured or on their way back from knocks leading into the weekend – the suggestion would be that Adam Reach, Moses Odubajo, Massimo Luongo and Kieran Lee will be firing ahead of a trip to Swansea on April 4.

And health dependent, it gives Garry Monk an extended period with his players to stop, re-group and put some fire back into a season that has been in freefall since Christmas. At the very least it saps the momentum of rivals – could this extended break have arrived at an ideal time for an out-of-form Sheffield Wednesday? Could it save Monk’s job?

These are all questions of varying importance perhaps best answered in the coming days and weeks while the club and wider football community attempt to stride through choppy waters.

Morgan Fox crosses the ball in what was Sheffield Wednesday's penultimate match leading into the EFL schedule suspension, an FA Cup defeat to Manchester City.

For now health quite rightly takes absolute precedence and while clubs up and down the country report the illness of players and staff – Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta and Chelsea’s England international Callum Hudson-Odoi are just two of the big names to have contracted the virus so far – Monk on Thursday reported a clean bill of health at Middlewood Road.

“We have done as much as we possibly can,” he said. “We have stuck to the guidelines and no one has reported anything in terms of illnesses, so that’s good. We have followed the precautions that we have been advised to take.

“Canteens and toilets, high-traffic areas, these types of things, we’re following all those hygiene rules. Handshakes and things like that; we have tried to avoid that contact. We have tried to put that in place as best as we can in an environment where there is a lot of contact whether it is inside or outside the building.

“We have no reported illnesses so we’re just trying to do what we can with the guidelines and get on with our job.”

Fans wear a disposable face mask prior to the FA Cup match between Sheffield Wednesday and Manchester City at Hillsborough.

Incredibly, several clubs are reported to have gone as far as to make internal rulings that players and staff are not to accept selfies or engage in any physical interaction with members of the general public.

Though community activity has been called to a halt at Middlewood Road, banning selfies is not yet a road Wednesday have gone down, with Monk laughing the idea off.

He said: “You can get it anywhere, you can go to the shops or the petrol station. There’s no guarantee of saying you do this or that that will avoid contracting the virus.

“We’re a little bit separate but we’re members of the public as well. Outside of this building we live a normal life, believe it or not!

“Here [the training ground] is no different to a business. I’m sure if you went into a business, they have certain protocols in place that they are trying to follow as well and we’re no different because we are footballers. It is no different to what anyone else is going through.”

There was a distinct bristle of unease at Boris Johnson’s statement on Thursday night reassuring the public that, among other pillars of society, football crowds should keep calm and carry on.

Social media lit up with opinions from all sides of the argument, a great many of which admitted they would be staying at home in the event of any match.

And Monk will be happy that that vocal section of the Wednesday support will not miss out on any action, especially in the club’s current plight.

“I know it’s a cliche, but football is nothing without the fans,” he said. “It is not the same feeling, especially in this country. I remember growing up and as much as you play for yourself, you also play for your fans. There has always been a connection in England.

“Some countries are a little bit different but here in England you always play for the fans and that is you thrive on. It gives you that adrenaline.

“We need them as much as ever. We know how frustrated they are; we are frustrated ourselves. We need each other in the good and bad times.”

With some of the more extreme science suggesting it could be as much as 10 to 14 weeks before the infection figures reach a peak in the UK, who knows what lies in wait for society, let alone Sheffield Wednesday?

Bewildered, uneasy, we watch and wait.