Barnsley’s players and staff were all tested for coronavirus yesterday and – while anyone who tests positive will have to isolate for seven days – the rest, including those who have been abroad, will return to Oakwell on Monday.
They will train in five groups of five in different time slots throughout the day with a two metre distance between the players. Head coach Struber wants clearer guidance on when full training can resume, with everyone together and contact between players allowed, as well as a definite date for the restart of the season in which there are nine games remaining.
He told the Chronicle: “It is the responsibility of the EFL to give us a clear time structure of when we can train as a full team. The most important thing is for them to tell us a start point for the first game. The EFL have given us guidelines for training but the most important thing is a time structure for the next month. Right now it is chaos from the EFL. I am very unhappy with them in this case.They have had two months to make a decision. I don’t understand what they have been doing.”
The EFL yesterday said that, should the season be curtailed – which would require more than half the clubs in the Championship to be in favour of that – then the ‘recommended framework’ would be to finalise tables on a points-per-game basis and for there to be the same number of promoted and relegated teams, as well as play-offs if possible. This proposal is set to be voted on by clubs in the near future.
Struber is against completing the table in this way – as has been done in League Two, Scotland and other countries. He said: “If we don’t play until the end, then we should have no champion, no promotion and no relegation. This is my opinion. It is no good for a club like Liverpool (Premier League leaders) but, I think, when we cancel the league, the results have no value.”
Struber believes the season will finish but wants at least three weeks of full training without restrictions. He said: “The German Bundesliga (which restarted on Saturday) had three weeks in small groups then ten days together as a team. My information is that some teams now have six players with muscle injuries. I don’t know how serious that is but the biggest problem is that, if we come back with a very short preparation, we will have a big problem with injuries. It is a very big duty and responsbility of the EFL to give us a good time with the team for preparation. In the end, it is maybe not Covid that is the problem, but the injuries to the players.”
Struber is also worried that, if he has limited time with his players in full training, they will not be able to work on aspects of their game which have led to them being bottom of the Championship such as defensive problems from set pieces. If we only get ten days together to work with the team on set play situations, this is not enough.”
Premier League players, including Watford’s Troy Deeney, have been reluctant to return to training. But Struber said: “My impression, when I speak with my boys, is that every single player is happy to go back to training. But it is my responsibility and duty that, when I don’t think it is time for football, we don’t train. But now, the numbers (of infections and deaths in the UK) go down and we can make the first step on Monday.”
The Reds are seven points from safety but Struber insists they can stay up. He said: “I believe, the team believes. We have a good exchange – not only a ‘blah, blah, blah.’ I feel that my players have the power and the conviction to stay in the league. The final nine games is a completely new competition. We need a high self-motivation and we also need a clever plan – those are the two things that gave teams success in the Bundesliga this week. We have a good chance to come back and stay in the league.”