Championship players return to training more than two months after season suspended

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May 26, 2020
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    Fulham striker Aleksandar Mitrovic training

    Aleksandar Mitrovic, the Championship’s leading scorer this season, was among the players back in training at Fulham on Monday

    Players at Championship clubs were allowed to return to training on Monday – the first step towards the potential resumption of the second-tier season.

    On Friday, the English Football League provided safety protocols and guidance for clubs to follow upon their return.

    Players took part in non-contact sessions and trained in small groups.

    A total of 1,014 Championship players and staff were tested for coronavirus towards the end of last week, with two people testing positive.

    Hull City confirmed on Sunday that the two positive cases were from their club.

    The EFL said those who had tested positive “will now self-isolate in line with the guidelines provided by the EFL and only those who have tested negative will be permitted to enter training ground facilities”.

    Some Premier League clubs started non-contact training in small groups on 19 May, while the government provided guidance about the next phase – returning to contact training – on Monday.

    ‘All of the lads were buzzing’

    Liam Cooper, captain of Championship leaders Leeds United, told BBC Radio Leeds: “We’ve been able to train in a group of five, so there was the back four and a midfielder in our group this morning.

    “All of the lads were buzzing to be able to kick a ball about with their mates again.

    “We’re making small steps and hopefully we can get back to normality in the near future.”

    Meanwhile, Barnsley captain Alex Mowatt told BBC Look North: “It was good to be back. We did a little bit of running and it was a hot day as well, so it was a tough first day back.

    “You get out of your car in your kit, then go into your training session straight away, and once you’ve finished you’re back in your cars and you go home straight away.

    “We were in small groups of five and keeping our distance from each other.

    “I wanted to get back training. I’ve been doing a lot of running by myself and there’s only so much you can do without getting bored, so I wanted to get back as soon as it was safe to do so.”

    Leeds and Barnsley were not the only Championship clubs to resume training on Monday…

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    Albion ‘resolutely behind finishing campaign’

    No Championship matches have been played since 8 March, with the season suspended five days later.

    There has been no specific date set for a resumption, although the EFL said in a statement last week that Championship clubs have “indicated that it is their wish to play on and conclude the season”.

    West Bromwich Albion chief executive Mark Jenkins said in a statement on Monday that the Baggies, who occupied the second automatic promotion spot when the season was suspended, want to complete their nine outstanding games.

    “We certainly welcome the clarity the EFL have now provided as to its future intentions in terms of resolving the conclusion of the 2019-20 season,” said Jenkins.

    “However, let me say at the outset that West Bromwich Albion’s position in this remains the same now as it was back when fixtures were halted – the club is resolutely behind finishing the campaign, if it is at all possible, where it belongs and that is on the pitch.

    “We take comfort that this is also the apparent wish of all the governing bodies and the majority of our fellow Championship clubs.”

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    May 26, 2020
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