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WARNING ISSUED James McClean suspended by Stoke as Covid-19 breach is investigated

Ireland winger had questions to answer as he is suspended by Stoke

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Stoke City's Irish midfielder James McClean. Photo: Getty Images

Stoke City's Irish midfielder James McClean. Photo: Getty Images

Stoke City's Irish midfielder James McClean. Photo: Getty Images

Stoke City have confirmed that they have suspended Republic of Ireland winger James McClean amid suggestions that he broke Covid-19 guidelines.

A club statement appeared on the Stoke website on Thursday evening suggesting McClean would not play for the club until the internal investigation is concluded.

"Stoke City can confirm that James McClean has been suspended with immediate effect pending a disciplinary hearing into an alleged breach of COVID-19 regulations, namely training in a private gym," read the statement.

"As a result of the suspension, McClean will not be available for selection for Saturday's game against Blackburn Rovers."

McClean's incident is the latest Covid-19 issue to hit football, after a host of players broke the rules over the Christmas period as they staged parties.

The incidents have inspired warnings from politicians that football could be halted in England unless players and clubs clean up their act.

Footballers who have continued to hug and kiss when celebrating goals despite a worsening in the coronavirus crisis have been "brainless", according to the chair of the key parliamentary sports committee.

Manchester City and Fulham players crowded together after scoring in their respective matches on Wednesday night, in spite of reminders from the Premier League to strictly observe protocols on the avoidance of unnecessary contact.

City boss Pep Guardiola defended his players, saying: "Sometimes the brain is a sub-conscious one and you are just there in the moment, you are not thinking."

Julian Knight, the chair of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee, told the PA news agency: "Some of the scenes we have seen have been brainless and give out an awful message."

The Premier League has been joined in reminding clubs about the need to follow protocols by the Football Association and the EFL.

The latter organisation's chief executive, Trevor Birch, warned its clubs they were "under the microscope" as never before after professional sport was given Government go-ahead to continue despite many other areas of life being placed under heavy restrictions in a new national lockdown.

Knight said a decision on whether elite sport could continue was "a matter for governing bodies and the health experts".

In a joint statement, the Football Association, Premier League, EFL and Women's Super League said they were confident their tightened coronavirus protocols would enable them to finish the season.

The statement read: "Safety is a collective effort and football requires the ongoing support of clubs, managers, players and all those involved in staging matches to continue to manage the spread of infection and set the right example to the public on and off the pitch.

"We will offer guidance, education and support as well as reviewing our practices to ensure they remain of the highest standard.

"Our three organisations have confidence in our COVID-19 protocols and our ability to bring the season to a successful conclusion."

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