Newcastle United have been forced to drop plans to hold a first-team training session on Sunday over fears they may be in the throes of a coronavirus outbreak. Two more players tested positive over the weekend, which means five members of the first-team bubble – considered four players and one staff member – are now self-isolated.
The situation has sparked another round of tests, Steve Bruce anxiously awaits the results as the club’s training ground is thoroughly cleaned. Preparations for Friday night’s trip to Aston Villa have already been put on hold and there must now be some doubt as to whether this Premier League game will take place.
Although Bruce declined to name those affected, midfielder Isaac Hayden missed Friday night’s 2-0 win at Crystal Palace due to illness and Emil Krafth’s quartet Andy Carroll, Allan Saint-Maximin and Jamal Lascelles were also absent, reported being injured. Martin Dubravka, Paul Dummett and Dwight Gayle are recovering from long-term injuries.
“It’s been a tough week,” said Bruce, who would normally have started Hayden in central midfielder at Selhurst Park and rarely excludes Swedish defender Krafth from his squads for the day. “Can we prevent a bigger epidemic? We sincerely hope so, but it’s difficult by the minute. It is a concern and difficult to manage. But we are doing our best to control the situation; we try to stay as safe as possible.
“I’m not just worried about the well-being of my players – which is of course vitally important – but also for my staff. I am a little anxious.
The Newcastle manager is uncertain whether the cases stem from players returning from abroad after the recent international break or closer to home. Steve Agnew, Bruce’s assistant, was back in the Palace technical area but had missed the previous weekend’s home loss to Chelsea in more than a week away from the training ground.
Until the outbreak was over, Ben Dawson was temporarily transferred from the academy to help train the first team.