Newcastle United were forced to abandon plans to stage a first-team training session on Sunday amid fears they are in the grip of a coronavirus outbreak. Two more players have tested positive over the weekend, meaning five members of the first team bubble – understood to be four players and one member of staff – are now self isolating.
The situation has prompted another round of testing with Steve Bruce waiting anxiously on the results as the club’s training ground is deep cleaned. Already preparations for Friday night’s trip to Aston Villa have been disrupted and there now has to be some degree of doubt as to whether that Premier League fixture will be able to take place.
Although Bruce has declined to name the individuals concerned, the midfielder Isaac Hayden missed last Friday night’s 2-0 win at Crystal Palace because of illness and the quartet of Emil Krafth, Andy Carroll, Allan Saint-Maximin and Jamal Lascelles were also absent, reported to be injured. Martin Dubravka, Paul Dummett and Dwight Gayle are recovering from longer-term injuries.
“It’s been a tough week,” said Bruce, who would normally have started Hayden in central midfield at Selhurst Park and rarely excludes the Sweden defender Krafth from his matchday squads. “Can we avoid a bigger outbreak? We sincerely hope so but it’s difficult at the minute. It’s a concern and difficult to manage. But we’re trying our best to control the situation; we’re trying to stay as safe as we can be.
“My concern is not just for the welfare of my players – which is, of course, vitally important – but my staff too. I’m a bit anxious.”
Newcastle’s manager is not sure whether the cases originate from players returning from abroad following the recent international break or closer to home. Steve Agnew, Bruce’s assistant, was back in the technical area at Palace but had missed the previous weekend’s home defeat to Chelsea during the course of well over a week away from the training ground.
Until the outbreak ends, Ben Dawson has been temporarily relocated from the academy to assist with first team coaching.