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"Everyone wants clarity and to have everything running like normal; this is definitely not normal"

Thomas Frank looks at the effect Covid-19 is having on his preparations for matches

18 December 2021

Squad Update …

Everyone that played against Watford should be available plus Ivan Toney and Ethan Pinnock.

Ivan Toney is feeling better. He had some symptoms. Most of the players have home gyms where they can keep their fitness up but as long as they have symptoms they can’t train. He was on the grass Monday, and we trained with him individually yesterday. He’s looking fine.

Covid numbers in the squad …

We think as a club that the Premier League and every club should be much more open about the cases they have. If you have cases there should be a clear indication of how many staff and players are infected at this time, and how many of the 25-man squad are infected. It is very important to be open and transparent, so we know where we are. We have 13 positives in total between staff and players; we’ve had more over the last ten days.

Every manager and Head Coach badly wants to win and every club wants to do everything they can; I haven’t met a manager or Head Coach in my life, myself included, who doesn’t want to do everything to win. If it is not transparent for those making the rules, then you do what you can to add it to your advantage. Some clubs are more open and transparent about it than others, just like people are different. Why not say, for example, we have 20 cases in total, it’s 13 players and seven staff.

Protecting the fixture list …

We think that we should postpone the full round of Premier League games this weekend; Covid cases are going through the roof in all the Premier League clubs. Everyone is dealing with it, and everyone has a problem at this moment in time. To postpone this round, and the Carabao Cup round, will give people four or five days to clean training grounds so everything is fine; you break the chain in every club. You need to have close contact; physios need to do their job with players, we are in a dressing room on matchdays, and we travel on coaches. We want to play and it’s important that football keeps going but this way we can have Boxing Day no problems. We think that is sensible.

This Omicron variant is running through the world like wildfire and spreading much quicker. We need to do everything we can to protect and avoid it. It is everywhere and we can do a lot at the clubs where it is by closing down training grounds for what is needed and then we go again.

Director of Football, Phil Giles, and our CEO, Jon Varney, have been in, if not hourly contact, regular contact with the Premier League over the last couple of days. I haven’t spoken to any other managers at this time. We’ve spoken about it a lot in the club with me, Jon, Phil, and the other staff members.

Vaccination rates …

It’s very high. It’s around 90 plus per cent.

[Getting vaccinated] is a free choice; we live in a free world. I would definitely recommend it. We have a lot of players double vaccinated and arranged to get the booster in the training ground yesterday. We are doing everything we can to be as safe as possible. My biggest recommendation would be that they should be vaccinated.

Disruption to training …

After the game was postponed on Tuesday, we talked about the best possible way to prepare for the game on Saturday, if it goes on. Physically, and to get people ready for the game, we should do a light session and get everyone in Wednesday but to break the chain we didn’t. Today we train a bit later but it is in and out. They aren’t going into the dressing room; they get their kit in the car and change there. They have minimal medical prep, go out on the pitch, get a football, go home, done; that is not the performance-first preparation we do for a game. Playing one game like that is not a problem but if we have to play a lot of games, that is where we are going to struggle as clubs.

If we have to play, we are thinking about whether the players drive by themselves to minimize the spread. That is not correct preparation. We are willing to compromise on the preparation for a Premier League game that, in our case, is very important. We talk about one game at a time, and we want to finish as high as possible, but it is important from the financial part to stay in the Premier League.

Covid Safety concerns …

Players are in many ways the most important ones as they are the ones who go out there, so they need to feel safe. There has been minor concern from the players but there has been a lot of concern from staff members. The whole medical staff need to do treatment and people have to go to work because we have to perform. There are some moral questions here which are very tricky. I’m not saying it is easy for the Premier League.

It is that uncertainty. Are we playing or not playing? What happens if you get the virus? Everyone wants clarity and to have everything running like normal. This is definitely not running like normal and that is where everyone gets a little disrupted in their normal life. We need to find a way, if possible, to keep going and maybe that’s a week without games.

Next month’s Africa Cup of Nations …

If it was the Euros, World Cup, or African Cup of Nations, as long as all the safety measures and Covid protocols are in place, then no problem. It can be a problem if some of the countries are red list countries in almost every country. Then there’s issues that needs to be solved one way or another.

Saturday’s opponents Southampton …

They are a very well coached team; they are very clear in their style of play. Ralph Hasenhüttl has done a very good job, giving them a clear identity over the last three years. I like the aggression in their pressure, they go forward very quickly, and they are a team that are difficult to face.

It was an open game [last night]. Crystal Palace were on top of the game, but Southampton have this magic from James Ward-Prowse on direct free-kicks; he is probably one of the best in the world. That, and a fantastic finish from Armando Broja, flipped the game a bit. Palace pushed forward more in the second-half and got their deserved equalizer.

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