Sheffield United's game with Middlesbrough is called off as Chris Wilder hits out at EFL

Chris WilderChris Wilder
Chris Wilder
SHEFFIELD UNITED'S home game with Middlesbrough has been postponed - with the EFL compelled to act due to a raft of Covid cases among the visitors' players and staff.

That decision arrived hours after strong criticism from Middlesbrough manager Chris Wilder, who confirmed that ten staff members and nine players tested positive for Covid at the club's training ground on Thursday.

After finishing his press duties, the club later revealed to another player had tested positive for Covid, taking the number of players and staff affected to 20.

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Wilder had stated that the previous 24 to 48 hours has been his most difficult in football management and also took a swipe at the EFL for wanting to proceed with the fixture.

A coronavirus outbreak ripped through the club's ranks ahead of the scheduled Championship trip to his former club, with Boro told to recall loan players to enable them to fulfil the game before the governing bodies had a rethink and elected to postponement the fixture.

A furious Wilder, speaking on Friday afternoon, said: "In 20 years as manager, starting off in the non-league, I have never experienced anything like I have done in the last 48 hours.

"We have one player that can only pay a small part of a game at this period of the season and we have four of five long term injuries. We have a team in mind to play Sheffield United and it is a fabulous game and they are doing fabulously well with possibly the strongest group of players in the division and it is a special place for me as well. I am looking forward to going back there.

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"But we rocked in on Thursday morning. We test possibly more than any in the Championship and a lot in Premier League. Everyone has lateral flow tests before they rock up in training and ten staff have tested positive on Thursday.

"Nine players have tested positive on Thursday. Seven would have been in starting 11 for Sheffield United.

"I spoke to EFL about the situation. I am a man of integrity and honesty. I will play a game anywhere on a level-playing field, while understanding it is not your best 11 against my best 11.

"But we have been absolutely decimated from a playing, starters' and staff point of view in terms of preparing the players. Alan Knill has got it.

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"It was a Covid outbreak. Simple as that and it has ripped through us and this is not a situation I have seen a couple of clubs talking about it ripping through their football clubs and I am not being critical.

"They (EFL) asked us to supplement the group with people on loan, which I cannot get my head around.

"It is quite baffling what is going on with the other games being called off. We are doing our best without any staff and players to prepare for a tough game in the Championship, live on Sky in front of 30,000.

"I am all for governance and letter of the law stuff, but this is making it up as you go along time *(from the EFL), that is how I am seeing it and it is quite embarrassing, if I am honest.

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On the lack of backroom staff available, he quipped: "I have put the shirts out before, washed the kit before and I will be running on with the sponge and the bucket. I am going to chuck the water on the injured players and tell them to 'get up, there's nothing wrong with you.'

"Alan won't be there, which I am gutted about. Two of my analysts won't be there, the sports science guy, goalkeeping coach and first-team coach won't be there, along with the director of football and three kit men. It might be quite a busy next few days.

"As there is an outbreak at our training ground, should our training ground be closed down? It is incredibly confusing.

"This is not injuries, but an out and out Covid outbreak that has swept through and could do tomorrow morning."

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"But the blunt message we keep getting back from the EFL is that you have to fulfil this fixture as they have been put under that much pressure.

"I think it's because they have been getting so much stick and hammer and they have just put their feet down and gone: 'that's it.' That's my personal point of view, we will play by hook or by crook.

"I am all for governance and letter of the law, but for me this is 'make it up as you go along time.' It is quite embarrassing if I am honest."

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