Some clubs raring to go as EFL announces restart date
Monday, 1st Jun 2020 21:45 by Tim Whelan
The Championship is due to restart on the weekend of June 20, but while Leeds have been well prepared for weeks, it seems Queens Park Rangers aren’t quite so keen to restart.
The EFL have announced that subject to all safety requirements and government guidelines being met.we will be back in action in a little under three weeks time. They plan to complete the season with the play-off final on or around July 30, so they can comple the season in a similar timeline to the Premier League.
They are also likely to change the regulations to allow teams to use five substitutes and have matchday squads of 20 players rather than 18. This is to reduce the chance of injuries when players will have a busy schedule to complete after a short period of training, and also because at least some games will have to played in high summer temperatures.
The full fixture list will be announced later in the week, but if the order of matches is the same as the original we will be restarting at Cardiff, which was the next game to be played when the season was suspended in March. A member of staff at Cardiff has tested positive for the dreaded Covid-19, but it wasn’t a member of the playing squad and presumably they have been isolated away from the players.
One obstacle to that fixture could have been the different regulations imposed by the Welsh government, but Adam Pope told his twitter followers he’s heard that they will be fine with football restarting. “From my colleague at @BBCSportWales Welsh Gov have this morning confirmed behind closed doors sport is good to go on wales so it’s in line with England.”
Though in any case the Welsh clubs could have gone to Bristol to play their home games, seeing as fans won’t be admitted anyway. It’s still possible that Leeds will have to play at neutral venues due to the perceived risk of fans congregating outside Elland Road, and the local authority will have the final say whether we will be playing in Leeds or not.
Some fans think we would be disadvantaged by having to play away from our own stadium, but I don’t think it will make much difference without a crowd to cheer us on anyway. Or at least not enough to make a difference. Currently part of the land outside ER is fenced off due to building work on the new centenary square, and this could be extended to reduce the space where fans could congregate on matchdays.
And Leeds will be just as well prepared on the field, having ordered exercise bikes for the players as soon as it looked likely that the pandemic would cause a shutdown. Such is Bielsa’s attention to detail that the players were all given fitness programmes to follow during their time away from the club, so they will come back as fit as they were when they left.
But it seems that not every Championship club is quite so well organised, and today QPR chief executive Lee Hoos issued this statement. “I am absolutely stunned by this announcement, as is our Director of Football Les Ferdinand and our manager Mark Warburton. Incredibly, there has been absolutely no consultation with individual clubs nor with the Championship doctors' working group by the divisional representatives - or anyone else in the Football League – regarding this matter.”
“On top of that, we were only made aware of the statement 40 minutes before it was made public. Having spoken with Les and Mark, they share my views. We are vehemently opposed to this schedule. The players haven’t even returned to full-contact training at this moment and yet they are now expected to be in a position to play at a competitive level in just three weeks’ time." And he claims there are other clubs who share QPR's disappointment with the EFL statement.
All of which seems rather surprising when the EFL have been having talks with it’s member clubs for weeks, so lord knows what they have been doing at QPR. Seeing as it looks like they are going to be badly prepared and unfit when the action resumes it’s a shame we haven’t got to play them as one of our remaining nine games.
And whoever the unnamed clubs who support QPR may be, Middlesbrough aren’t one of them, as Johnathan Woodgate fully supports Leeds stance that the season should restart soon. “We’ve followed the guidance of the authorities all along, and will continue to do so. We’d had June 20 in mind as a possible to return and were already working towards that date. We had a good week last week and we’ll step things up this week, and keep moving forwards now.”
We can guess that Hull are one of the clubs who are bellyaching about the restart, if only out of self-interest as they try to keep themselves out of the bottom three. And another might be Charlton, who have 15 players out of contract as their club sinks back into chaos. Three of them are refusing to play when they won’t be at Charlton next season and don’t want the risk of getting injured.
But despite the recent voices of discontent at QPR, Hull and Charlton, the majority of Championship clubs have voted for the season to recommence, so let’s get on with it, complete the season and get promotion done.
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