Sam Allardyce has called for a “circuit break” after the Premier League returned its highest number of positive coronavirus tests this season.
Responding to reports in the Telegraph that representatives of some top-flight clubs have proposed a two-week ‘cooling off’ period, the West Brom boss insisted it was the “right thing” to cope with the outbreak.
Between December 21 and 27, the League tested 1,479 players and club staff and 18 tested positive, eclipsing the previous highest number of cases, 16 during the week of November 9-15.
Speaking after his side’s 5-0 home defeat to Leeds, former England boss Allardyce said: “Everyone’s safety is more important than anything else.
“When I listen to the news the variant virus transmits quicker than the original virus we can only do the right thing which is have a circuit break.
“I am 66 years old and the last thing I want to do it catch Covid. I’m very concerned for myself and football in general. If that’s what needs to be done we need to do it.
“We had one positive this week and it seems to be creeping around no matter how hard we try.”
Sheffield United can confirm the club recorded a number of positive coronavirus tests after the latest round of testing.— Sheffield United (@SheffieldUnited) December 29, 2020
The individuals who have tested positive have now entered into a period of self-isolation in accordance with Premier League and Government guidelines.
However, Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer questioned the need for a break after his side’s late 1-0 win over Wolves.
Solskjaer insisted his club are successfully following the required protocols and added: “I can’t see the benefit in having a circuit breaker or whatever it is going to be called because when are we going to play the games?
“We all know it’s so difficult this year but if you just stop more games I don’t think that’s going to make a big, big change.”
The PA news agency understands that the Premier League is unaware of any such talks taking place. However, pressure is likely to grow after both Sheffield United and Fulham were affected by new outbreaks of the virus.
Blades boss Chris Wilder revealed ahead of their match at Burnley that the club had seen “a couple” of players and “four or five backroom staff” test positive. Wilder’s starting XI was unaffected, with just one change from the previous match, Oliver Burke dropping to the bench, but he was only able to name seven of a possible nine substitutes.
Wilder said neither he nor the club were looking to have the game delayed.
Ralph Hasenhüttl will be absent from the dugout tonight, following a positive Covid-19 test in his household.— Southampton FC (@SouthamptonFC) December 29, 2020
The #SaintsFC boss will manage the game remotely and be in touch with his coaching staff throughout:
“It’s not an ideal situation but I don’t think we’re a club of one. It (the virus) is picking up and it’s running high at football clubs,” he told SUTV.
“We just notified the relevant authorities that we’ve had a situation at the football club. But I want to play football. That’s how it is, we’re not looking to get anything canned. We did the right thing as far as our responsibility to the Premier League and notified them regarding the players that are ill.”
The PA news agency understands that Fulham have also recorded a number of positive tests and Wednesday’s London derby at Tottenham is dependent on the results of the players and staff at Craven Cottage who are yet to receive their results.
Manchester City began retesting their squad on Tuesday in the hope they have acted quickly enough to prevent a widespread outbreak of the disease after their Monday game at Everton was called off at short notice due to a number of positive cases, while Arsenal confirmed on Monday that Brazilian defender Gabriel had tested positive for the virus.
Southampton boss Ralph Hasenhuttl did not attend his side’s match with West Ham following a positive test in his household.
A Premier League statement read: “The Premier League can today confirm that between Monday 21 December and Sunday 27 December, 1,479 players and Club staff were tested for COVID-19. Of these, there were 18 new positive tests.
“Players or club staff who have tested positive will self-isolate for a period of 10 days.
“The Premier League is providing this aggregated information for the purposes of competition integrity and transparency. No specific details as to clubs or individuals will be provided by the League and results will be made public after each round of testing.”
Sheffield United said in a statement: “Sheffield United can confirm the club recorded a number of positive coronavirus tests after the latest round of testing.
“Due to medical confidentiality the club will not be revealing the names of those who have been affected.”
Our next two @SkyBetLeagueOne fixtures have been suspended ❌— Rochdale AFC (@officiallydale) December 28, 2020
This is due to players and first-team staff self-isolating in line with EFL and Government guidance
⁰We would like to apologise to supporters for the delay in communicating this news #RAFC
Nine games across the Sky Bet Championship, League One and League Two on Tuesday were postponed because of the virus, while Rotherham boss Paul Warne said his side are only playing their match with Barnsley to avoid a possible points deduction by the EFL.
Rochdale are one of the clubs in League One whose next two games have been postponed and their club doctor Wes Tensel called for the EFL to see the “bigger picture” and halt the current campaign.
Tensel, who is also a practising GP, told the PA news agency: “This is my opinion as a doctor. Some people will disagree, some won’t, this is just my opinion based on what I have seen working in the NHS and at a football club.”