Published: 12:00, 20 January 2021
| Updated: 12:36, 20 January 2021
Gillingham boss Steve Evans admits playing football throughout a pandemic is a worry after seeing one of his counterparts admitted to intensive care.
Shrewsbury boss Steve Cotterill watched his team’s FA Cup game against Southampton last night from a hospital bed. Only recently he was in intensive care after contracting the Covid-19 virus.
Much of the Shrewsbury team were forced into isolation after an outbreak at the club. Cotterill, 56, - described as a fitness freak by Evans - was worst hit.
It was a stark reminder of the dangers of playing football during the crisis. The EFL are now testing at clubs twice a week to mitigate the risk but Evans spoke openly about his own fears.
He said: “I sent my best wishes to Steve, he is a brilliant coach, a brilliant person who I have a brilliant relationship with but it just shows you.
“He is as fit as a butcher’s dog, that guy could run a marathon backwards. We have Craig Stone who runs our youth team and fitness coach James Russell, they are fitness freaks and Steve is one of them. He prides himself on it and to hear how close he was to being a statistic is staggering.
“I have not hidden it, football should have been stopped. We are no different to anyone else. We can’t work from home and we need to go out into an environment with 25-30 young professionals, staff and youth team players. We have had to do it.
“It is more of a comfort knowing we can get a test twice a week but there was nine months without that.
“I worry about myself, if I am honest, with my weight and shape and compare that to Steve Cotterill. If I got that to the same degree I would have a real problem and I fear for the staff around the club. We have some senior people around the club, the same as all clubs.
“We have not stopped and we won’t make it an excuse. The PFA (Professional Footballers’ Association) have stepped in (to pay for the tests) but about time.
“I hear the gratification of the PFA and that we should get down on our knees to them. They should have done it nine months ago. They have done it now and we are grateful and at least it makes going to work a little bit easier for us.”
The latest round of EFL tests returned 32 positive cases from 4,598 players and staff from all 72 clubs. Fifty-three clubs returned zero positive tests over the period from Monday, January 11 to Sunday, January 18.
Lateral flow tests have also been used recently by the Gills to allow a couple of their youth players the chance to step up and train with the first team.
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