Sheffield United boss Chris Wilder is keeping his fingers crossed for the results from the latest round of coronavirus testing.
United’s clash with Burnley went ahead on Tuesday despite two players and several members of staff testing positive for Covid-19, while two more players were taken to Manchester Airport for tests that morning, which came back negative.
The club’s players underwent more testing on Thursday and, although no-one else has shown symptoms, Wilder admitted he would not be surprised if Saturday’s match against Crystal Palace is not able to go ahead.
He said: “I think the way it’s sweeping the country, I wouldn’t be surprised. It’s starting to grow. Obviously after the Christmas period as well.
“I wouldn’t be surprised over the round of testing now that there’ll be more positive tests up and down the country in professional football and the Premier League.”
There have been suggestions from some quarters that the season should be paused while cases are high.
Wilder said: “It’s obviously ramped up enormously and the speed of what’s been happening over the last eight weeks has changed the situation in the country. As always, we’ll play with a straight bat, we’ll do what the Premier League wants us to do.”
The United boss does not expect to have any players back for Saturday’s clash with Palace, and that was something the club could certainly have done without given their struggles.
A 1-0 loss to Burnley was the latest blow, extending the worst-ever start to a Premier League season to two points from 16 games.
Wilder insisted it is not yet a hopeless cause, saying: “We’ve got to start chipping away at it of course, we understand that. We’re not going to chip away at it if we lose tight games.
“We’ve got to come out the other end of those tight games.
“But you keep chipping away at it. It’s a dozen (points) at the moment, over a period of four-and-a-half months, you can chip away at it. That’s got to be our aim.
“You’ve seen what happens with a couple of back-to-back wins, it changes everything and obviously to get that first win on the board is one we’re desperately trying to do and then we’ll work off that.”
Wilder has seen the attitude he wants from his players, and he added: “They’re hurting and they’re thinking about it a lot and they’re desperate.
“I see it, I see the body language, I see the look in their eyes and I know they’re really not enjoying this period. And they’re fighting to get out of it, which is all I can ask.”
Wilder is looking to recruit a couple of players next month to help United’s survival bid and has passed on names to the board.
He said: “We do need in my opinion to make the group better. Over to the chief exec and the board for them to make their decision or to pursue the targets we’re looking at and the positions we’re looking at.”
The manager admits their plight could put off potential targets but is looking for players who want to make themselves heroes.
He said: “From a foreign point of view, yes, most certainly. From a domestic point of view, not necessarily. Domestically, if we bring a player in on loan, he will understand the team maybe a little bit more and look at the stats.
“Of course, the one stat that isn’t pleasing on the eye is the points total but the other stats in terms of how we’ve played and how close we’ve been to wins, those players will have nothing to lose.”