Exclusive: Newcastle forced to keep training ground closed as Crystal Palace warned of infection risk

Luke Edwards
·3-min read
Staff disinfect areas inside St James' Park - Getty Images
Staff disinfect areas inside St James' Park - Getty Images

Newcastle United will be forced to keep their training ground closed until Monday after it emerged three players who have tested positive for coronavirus were involved in the game against Crystal Palace last Friday.

Newcastle have informed the London club but Palace have refused to say whether they have had any positive tests this week. Manager Roy Hodgson is due to discuss the matter at his press conference before this weekend’s trip to West Brom.

As things stand, the Magpies are hoping to resume group training at the start of next week so that their own game against West Brom can go ahead as planned, but it is too early to say whether that will be allowed to happen.

Telegraph Sport can reveal that a total of eight Newcastle players have tested positive for coronavirus, plus one member of staff. There are, however, concerns that another two have also been infected, after results from their tests were deemed to be inconclusive earlier in the week.

With the training ground closed and with Newcastle unable to guarantee the virus had been contained, which posed a risk not only to themselves, but also opposition players, their trip to Aston Villa was postponed by the Premier League earlier this week. It is the first game to be called off since the start of the pandemic in March.

Having first reported fears of a mass outbreak on Sunday, Telegraph Sport has also learned that the entire squad and staff were retested on Wednesday. The club will get the results of those tests back later today. There are still concerns the virus may have spread further.

The training ground, on the advice of the relevant health and local government bodies, will remain shut until it is certain those who have been in contact with any of the infected individuals are given a clean bill of health.

Newcastle will then discuss their next move with both the Premier League and Public Health England (PHE), with the aim to restart group training at the start of next week.

The Magpies hierarchy are confident they have the full backing of the relevant bodies and have strongly denied negligence was responsible for the outbreak.

It was PHE and the Premier League, who are covering the cost of the testing programme, who instructed clubs to reduce the number of tests per week from two to one this season. Some clubs have continued to test twice a week, but it is thought all are teams who are also playing in Europe this season.

The episode has exposed the fragility of football’s training ground bubbles, as Newcastle’s problems arose when two players who had tested negative at the start of the week were carrying the virus.

Newcastle had already suffered four positive tests before – two players and two members of staff – but all were self-isolating at home as the virus had been detected.

However, the other two were allowed to mix with teammates at the training ground as they had tested negative and were not, at that stage, showing any symptoms.

Newcastle only realised they were also carrying the virus after the game at Crystal Palace. It has since emerged the Magpies secured that 2-0 win, even though three of those involved in the matchday squad had also caught Covid-19 and will have been in contact with opposition players.