Saturday, 9 May 2020

Will players need special mental preparation for restart?

There have been a number of players, like our Simon Francis, who have voiced concerns about 'Project Restart', and the danger which they would be putting not only themselves in, but also their families, if they play football when the COOVID-19 virus is still active. The precautions that the Premier League take may limit the chances of catching the virus, but we are in uncharted waters, and nobody really knows if a player is likely to catch the virus if the restart goes ahead. Testing has to be perfect and whatever precautions are taken there will be a minute percentage chance that something is not done correctly for the testing procedure.
Stepping out on to the pitch, players will have to feel confident all testing has been done well.
The Premier League will be asking the players to be guinea pigs. There is no real precedent, and in Germany the Bundesliga is spending bucket loads of cash on trying to make it safe for players. But in Germany the idea of neutral venues is banned, so why can't it be done in England for the Premier league? It does seem strange that the Premier League is keen to get games on, which is a danger in itself, and yet believes the 10 neutral ground make things massively safer. True there would be less travel up and down the country, which I think is their main point, but surely the games should not be on at all if there is not a level of safety where teams can travel out of their own local county. And do all players even live close to their home ground? It says this is all too soon for a resumption to me.

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The people that are most at risk will be the players. Yet how can they get better prepared for what might be coming? Like us, they have been self-isolating for seven weeks and the change is going to be very quick, if the games will start in early June. They will all be back training by 18 May, and while they may feel comfortable around their own team-mates and staff, they will then have to travel to a neutral ground and an pretty much empty stadium to play a game that is massive for their Premier League status. All the time they will do this while knowing that they are more at risk of catching the virus than they have been in the last two months, testing aside.
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The mental trainers will be hard at work to get the payers to forget all about COVID-19 and to concentrate on what they are best at - playing football. How easy that will be playing in a strange environment is hard to tell. Some players might not even think they have a problem until they stand on the pitch at kick off, and suddenly they don't feel comfortable. The more you thing about 'Project Restart' the more you have to be worried for the players. A  tragedy such as losing a player or a member of a player's family to this awful virus would be unforgivable.
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