outrage | 

‘They aren’t happy’ – players and managers fuming as festive firebreak is rejected

Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel. Photo: Peter Cziborra/Reuters

Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel. Photo: Peter Cziborra/Reuters

Matt LawTelegraph Media Group Limited

Managers and players have been left angry with their clubs and the Premier League for rejecting a ‘festive firebreak’ amid the upsurge in coronavirus cases which they believe will put safety at risk.

After seeing their own meeting about the rise in cases that has resulted in postponements and stretched squads to their limits rescheduled for Thursday, managers and players in the English top flight were told yesterday they would have to keep playing through the packed Christmas schedule following an emergency meeting of all 20 clubs.

It had been hoped that the round of games scheduled to start on December 28 would be postponed to create space in the fixture list for recovery, with coaches having to rely on a smaller pool of players because of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

But clubs, who have been warned restrictions may be necessary in January, rejected that idea and a suggestion to try to split the next two rounds of games over December 26/27 and 28-30 because they judged it to be unworkable.

While confirming that clubs will continue to work to the current schedule, the Premier League released new vaccination figures that showed 16 per cent of players have not yet received a single jab.

The number of fully vaccinated players to have received two doses now stands at 77pc, up from 68pc in October, while 92pc of players and club staff have received at least one dose of the vaccination.

By contrast in Italy’s Serie A the double vaccination rate is 98pc, while in Germany’s Bundesliga it is 94pc.

Managers and players will get their chance to offer up their views at a meeting rescheduled for Thursday and one source said: “They aren’t happy.”

Chelsea head coach Thomas Tuchel claimed the safety of his players had been overlooked by the Premier League’s decision to reject a request to postpone their game against Wolves and the German must now prepare for three games in eight days, starting with tomorrow night’s Carabao Cup tie against Brentford, with a heavily depleted squad.

The Football Association accepted a proposal to cancel replays in the third and fourth rounds of this season’s FA Cup, but that is unlikely to fully appease the managers and players who believe the forthcoming schedule is too heavy.

A Premier League statement said: “It was confirmed at a Premier League club meeting today that while recognising a number of clubs are experiencing Covid-19 outbreaks and challenges, it is the League’s collective intention to continue the current fixture schedule where safely possible.”

The league later announced there were 90 new Covid-19 cases last week, from a record 12,345 tests administered on top-flight players and staff.

Lateral flow tests are now being taken daily by all staff wishing to enter a club’s training ground, with PCR tests carried out twice-weekly.

“The league is continuing to work with clubs to keep people safe by helping mitigate the risks of Covid-19 within their squads,” a statement from the PL read.

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