Date: 14th June 2020 at 7:48am
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Norwich City have announced that one of their players has tested positive for COVID-19 in the latest round of Corona Virus tests carried out by the Premier League. A result which at this stage means he will most likely miss the Southampton game. The player did apparently take part in the friendly at Spurs on Friday but whether it is an established first team player or an Academy youngster, we just don’t know.

The club announced the news late on Saturday night in the following statement:

“Norwich City can confirm that one of its players has returned a positive test result following the recent round of COVID-19 testing.

In line with the Premier League’s protocols, the player will now self-isolate for a period of seven days before being tested again at a later date. The player must return a negative test result before being able to resume training.

The club will not name the player in question and asks that his request for privacy and confidentiality are respected at this time.”

This is now the eighth round of tests with around 1,200 tests being conducted amongst the players and staff of the Premier League during each round. In total, there have been 8,687 tests with 16 positive results. It means that Norwich will be without one of their players for the crucial visit of Southampton in five days time.
Whilst the Canaries have declined to name the player and I’m sure we all respect that decision, the implications of having players missing for crucial games after the re-start is there for all to see. It’s something that I’ve spoken about on this site numerous times and it could cause a real problem once we get into multi-game weeks.

Let’s consider a hypothetical scenario where the player who has tested positive is Teemu Pukki. You could just as easily change the name to any of our other big players, like Tim Krul, Todd Cantwell, Alex Tettey or Ben Godfrey. Imagine that one of these players or perhaps two or three of them contract the virus and despite (fingers crossed) not having symptoms or any ill health issues, that they test positive on Thursday or Friday next week.

The club statement states that the player must return a negative test before returning to training. So what if the negative test result doesn’t happen until just before or just after the FA Cup Quarter Final match with Manchester United on Saturday 27th June? The likelihood is that City could be without these players for three games, arguably making a farce out of the Premier League’s return.
I picked Pukki’s name as he is almost certainly going to be the most important player for Norwich City after the re-start. He is our top scorer and has, even in his driest period to date after Christmas and into February, seemed the most likely of City’s players to score a goal. This over-reliance on one striker hasn’t been helped by persistent injury problems dogging Josip Drmic.

I know the above scenario is unlikely, at least that’s what we’re told about the testing and social distancing being practiced in the Premier League but these guys are around each other a lot. The Government define close contact for the purposes of their Track and Trace programme as being “within two metres of an infected person for fifteen minutes or more.” Research has apparently shown that despite football being a contact game, during a 90 minute match, 98 percent of the time, on-pitch interactions between players lasted less than five minutes in total.

Even so, people are still catching Corona Virus. I heard one of the Government’s scientist types say during a briefing last week, that in his opinion 1 in 1000 people currently have the virus in England. These test results in the Premier League are seemingly double that, or am I being too simplistic?
Getting back to my headline and the word “Integrity”, I cant help but wonder what happens in purely football terms if say, three important first team players all tested positive in the same round of tests at a single club? After all, the virus is highly infectious and this particular positive result shows that even with limitless money and time to spend on cleaning surfaces and taking precautions, a person can still catch it.

Integrity of the League” was a term bandied about by many in the upper echelons of football when Project Re-Start was first being discussed, but would a club like Norwich be allowed to cancel a game if three of our most important players tested positive at the same time? There will be some who will say that all of those same players could pick up an injury at the same time, so “use your squad.”

I do understand that point of view but the difference is that a tweaked ankle ligament or a dead-leg, despite it’s name, will not kill you. COVID-19 just might, even if you’re a super fit athlete like these guys are.

Football is pushing ahead, whatever the cost may be and money continues to talk louder than common sense, it seems.


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