Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder says contact training “has to come as quickly as possible” into the Premier League.
Players and managers from England’s top-flight clubs were briefed on proposals for the reintroduction of contact training on Tuesday, with club executives due to vote on them at a shareholders’ meeting on Wednesday.
Giving the green light to stage two of training will be another landmark moment in the league’s ‘Project Restart’ plans, with a return to action in mid-June the ultimate goal.
Wilder has been impressed by the success of Germany’s Bundesliga in getting competitive action up and running, and believes there is now “light at the end of the tunnel.”
“There’s an enormous amount of enthusiasm in this country to watch football and I think [the Bundesliga] is a great gauge of what the Premier League will be like when we get back,” he told the club’s official website.
“There are an awful lot of opinions flying about but thankfully there is a light at the end of the tunnel that we can all get back to normality in terms of our working.
“The authorities are obviously trying to get through phase one as quickly as possible, they talked about it as a minimum of seven days and if it goes to plan, they will assess it.
“It’s an ongoing scenario from day to day, it has the ability to pause and change with certain situations that may happen. They want to roll out things out quickly and as safely as possible and keep everyone on board.
‘Step two is contact and making the groups bigger and that has to come as quickly as possible to accelerate the small sided games, 11 vs 11s and then the return to playing.”
The Premier League proposals for contact training will be based on guidance published by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport on Monday.
That guidance recommends contact being gradually built up, first among clusters of two to three players, increasing to groups of four to 12 players before ultimately a return to full team training.
It also recommends meticulous record-keeping of any close contact—defined as anything which occurs within the two-metre social distancing boundary—so that in the event of a positive test, contacts can easily be traced.
Testing will continue to take place twice a week, with the next set of Premier League results due to be published on Wednesday.
If the contact training protocols are approved, a further shareholders’ meeting is scheduled for Thursday when clubs will look at wider issues.
Stage one training—involving small groups observing social distancing—was introduced last Tuesday—the day after clubs voted in favour of the protocols.
These will include possibly settling on a restart date, further discussions on the use of neutral venues, considerations around the broadcast of matches and talks on what should happen if the season should have to be curtailed.