Lee Johnson has quite rightly criticised the EFL after their handling of the coronavirus outbreak at Sunderland AFC. So far one player has tested positive for Covid and two others are showing Covid-type symptoms and are awaiting test results. Five other first team players are in self-isolation after being in close contact with the infected player.
“That game should have been called off,” said Johnson. “There’s no doubt in my mind. It was dangerous for the players who played in terms of the injuries and the fact that the Under-23s played yesterday. The team was changing by the hour and I can't help but be angry and frustrated. We asked the EFL for permission to postpone the game, and were told, ‘If you postpone the game you will be up for sanction and you will be investigated’. There was then a lack of clarity on exactly what that investigation entails, and the threat of having to potentially forsake the game and give the three points up to Wimbledon, we weren’t willing to take. Don’t forget, it was all very quick and rushed. We’ve got our players’ safety to think of, and the safety of the players from Wimbledon as well as the staff. The truth is that we just don’t know how bad or good things are.”
Saturday’s trip to Shrewsbury Town is now doubt. “Shutting the training ground has to be a consideration,” LJ continued. “It has to be. It’s dependent on how the tests come back. It’s almost like we’ve been punished for doing the right protocols. That’s how it feels. I’m saying, ‘If you’re going to make us play, then the ones that weren’t Covid-positive should be allowed to play’. The ones that have been left out by association. That for me is the most frustrating bit. To get the three points in this game, we’d have been better off telling people to pretend they were 30 yards away from people. But we haven’t. We’ve done it properly, but then we haven’t been helped out.”
Meanwhile, Johnson was full of praise for the players who stepped in. He said: "There was a lot of effort and endeavour. A lot of players showed a great attitude and put their head above the parapet when often players won't in that kind of circumstance. That's the bit I'm so proud of. At least it means something to these guys, because they should have been nowhere near this game. The likes of Willis, Gooch and O'Brien. They performed very, very well considering the circumstances."
In other news, Josh Scowen will be out until the New Year after fracturing his shin against Lincoln City. Johnson said: "The X-ray found a chip or a slight fracture to the shin, which is bad news. The best-case scenario is that he will be out for three weeks, the worst case scenario is seven weeks."