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Thursday, December 8, 2022

Premier League & Covid: Spurs boss Conte says managers meeting ‘like talking to a wall’

Tottenham boss Antonio Conte says Thursday’s meeting between managers and the Premier League to discuss issues around the Covid-19 pandemic was like talking to a brick wall.

On Monday the league chose to continue playing through the Christmas period.

Three games on 26 December have now been postponed, taking the total to 13, while players and club staff returned a record 90 positive tests last week.

Asked if the meeting was a waste of time, Conte said: “I think so.”

The Italian added: “Yesterday it was [like talking to] a wall and for this reason I also prefer to not go into it.”

The Premier League has declined to comment and BBC Sport has been told Spurs boss Conte did not contribute to any discussions within the meeting.

On Thursday, Liverpool v Leeds and Wolves v Watford were postponed because of coronavirus, while the Boxing Day fixture between Burnley v Everton was called off on Friday.

Spurs, who are seventh in the table, have been hit hard by the virus with two league games postponed and their final Europa Conference League game forfeited after they were unable to play.

On Thursday, Liverpool v Leeds and Wolves v Watford were postponed because of coronavirus, while the Boxing Day fixture between Burnley v Everton was called off on Friday.

Spurs, who are seventh in the table, have been hit hard by the virus with two league games postponed and their final Europa Conference League game forfeited after they were unable to play.

“If I have to be honest, it was a meeting that we tried to speak and some coaches tried to speak, to ask about solutions but I think everything was decided,” added Conte.

“Because when you have a wall in front of you, you can speak and ask what you want but every decision was taken.”

At Monday’s meeting, clubs were advised that if they have 13 fit players, plus a goalkeeper, they should fulfil their games.

Norwich boss Dean Smith added: “We went into a [Premier League managers’] meeting yesterday where the decisions had already been made, so I think we had already missed the boat in terms of decision making.

“They [the Premier League] decided the season would continue as was and we have got to fulfil fixtures now, so we have to cope as best we can.”

Crystal Palace boss Patrick Vieira added: “When you have a meeting like that with 20 managers it is difficult to put your ideas across.

“When the meeting finished you just try to understand what the outcome of the meeting was and what the meeting was for. I still didn’t understand what the conclusion was of the meeting.”

Amid the rise in cases, Liverpool and England midfielder Jordan Henderson told BBC Sport earlier this week he was “concerned” that “nobody really takes player welfare seriously”.

Meanwhile, Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola raised the possibility of players going on strike over their welfare.

He said he does not think it will happen, but that a strike may be the only way to get the authorities to listen.

Covid cases as Norwich and Palace

Smith said on Friday it was “lunacy” his side are having to play two games in 48 hours despite more Covid cases in the squad.

The Canaries, who bottom of the table and three points from safety, host Arsenal on Sunday at 15:00 GMT before playing away at Crystal Palace on Tuesday, kick-off 15:00.

Smith said Norwich, who have not played since 14 December because of the virus, had “fresh cases”.

“We are not sure how many will miss Boxing Day,” he added.

“There has got to be a question about the integrity of the competition when teams are playing weakened teams against other teams and it is affecting league positions.”

Asked whether he would back a players’ strike, he added: “I don’t think you can. We have to follow the guidelines of the league that we are in.”

Vieira, who said Palace have a “a couple of cases” of Covid at the club, was against a strike.

“I don’t know if they would be right to do it, the only thing I can tell you is I am against this kind of strike,” said the Frenchman.

“What is really important at the moment is the voice of players or managers should be heard a little bit more.”Everything you need to know about your Premier League team banner

SOURCE: BBC

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