“The word I keep hearing is leadership, a lack of leadership and direction,” Jonathan Northcroft tells Sunday Supplement
Last Updated: 18/05/20 7:09am
Players and managers feel the restart of English football is being hit by a “lack of leadership” at the top of the game, Sunday Times chief football writer Jonathan Northcroft told the Sunday Supplement.
Northcroft compared the successful return of Germany’s Bundesliga top flight on Saturday with the Premier League’s still sketchy plans to resume, and told the show preparations “need to be clearer and have more agreement” if it is to follow suit.
A number of figures including Watford boss Nigel Pearson, Brighton forward Glenn Murray and former England captain Wayne Rooney have spoken out against a ‘rushed’ return to first-team games this week, but Northcroft said the absence of a return date of any kind was leaving players and managers frustrated.
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“One of the problems I’m hearing is there’s a sense there’s not a clear roadmap, from players and managers, being set out by the Premier League. They had clear planning in Germany from the start, close contact with government, training protocols established quite early, and we’re still discussing all of that.
“The planning has to be clearer and there has to be more agreement to get to where Germany is. With all the health risks and uncertainty, players and managers feel they’re not even being told what the road ahead is. A couple I spoke to this week said they’re being asked to return to training but what date that’s working towards, when we can have contact training.
“It’s important for people in the game to have, at least, that sense that this is being planned for and looked after. The word I keep hearing is leadership, a lack of leadership and direction. There’d be a lot more confidence from people in the game if there was a sense that’s there at the top. It was there in Germany, but I don’t think it’s been there yet in England.”
‘Having set return date not healthy’
With the rate of infection and dates for lifting various parts of the national lockdown further still up in the air, Daily Mail football editor Ian Ladyman told the Supplement a set return point for the Premier League may actually prove counterproductive if it later had to be moved as a result of new restrictions or rules being relaxed more slowly than expected.
He said: “I understand it’s good to have an end point, a resumption date, in a perfect world. But we’re all having to make adjustments to our lives, none of us really know what the end of every week will bring individually.
“Footballers have just got to accept that to a degree and take it step by step, and if they’re asked to return to work, if they’re happy to do that they should just go and train without worrying what’s happening in four weeks’ time, just go and do their jobs.
“It’s not going to be sprung on them at three days’ notice, they’ll get enough notice. I’m not sure having that one date in their minds is that important or healthy, because the chances are it’ll change anyway.”
Rooney: Football being rushed back
In his regular Sunday Times column, Rooney explained his feeling of English football being “pushed” to return too quickly with Premier League players set to return to training as soon Tuesday.
He wrote: “I’m desperate to train and play again but it feels like football in England is being pushed to return too soon.
‘Our government says people can return to work but only with social distancing in the workplace and that does not work in football.
‘So I don’t get it: until the government gives the green light to have physical contact, we can’t train or prepare properly.”