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Club News

Duff on the impact of the coronavirus outbreak

17 March 2020

Club News

Duff on the impact of the coronavirus outbreak

17 March 2020

Robins boss Michael Duff's squad have been handed individual training programmes amid the coronavirus outbreak that has postponed the professional game in England.

All players and staff have been away from The Energy Check Training Ground since Friday after Saturday's game at Cambridge United was postponed, with a further four games currently ruled out until April.

Club doctor Sophie Risebero is in communication with the players, as like the rest of football and the country itself, while future plans are being put on hold.

"We found out on Friday that games were getting cancelled so in a meeting as staff pretty much immediately we decided to give the players nine days off so they can look after themselves," Duff explained.

"They've been sent off with a fitness programme which they're expected to adhere to and they will because they're still getting paid.

"The doctor is in contact with all of the players all the time. The doctor has been sending messages and links to certain things of how you should go about it and the process that everyone is saying - the washing of your hands, watching for the fever and all the things like that."

There are still 10 games left to play in League Two this season with Cheltenham sitting 5th in the table - in amongst the play-off places and four points off the automatic places with a game in hand.

Given the relentless nature of football Duff admits it's a bizarre quiet period, far away from the norm in the football calendar.

"It's weird because there is normally always work to be done. You're always normally either watching players or watching games constantly," he said.

"If you didn't have a game Saturday you'd be going to a game and there's literally nothing to do to a point where I read a book for two hours today and I can't remember the last time I sat down and read!

"There's always normally something to be done. There's the uncertainty, no one knows, but I'm the same as everyone else - just cracking on and turning on the news every half an hour to see if there's been any updates."

Forward Jonté Smith returned to the UK on Friday to prepare for Saturday's postponed trip to the Abbey Stadium having flown back in from Montego Bay in Jamaica where he had been on international duty with Bermuda, with Duff confirming that the attacker is fit and well.

"Jonté has had a little bit of bad luck because he's played for his country, flew overnight to get back to train on Friday, and within 15 minutes of getting to the training ground they'd just been given nine days off. He's fine and I think there was just the one case in Jamaica at the time anyway."

It's now a case of waiting patiently for any news with the EFL Board set to meet again on Wednesday to continue its contingency planning.

The players and staff will be waiting for when the green light is given to return to training action, while the extended break is also giving the likes of the injured Luke Varney and Ben Tozer an opportunity to gain useful healing time.

"We're geared up towards coming back but that might change," Duff continued. "Friday morning we were preparing for a game. It can change quickly. If the games get put back further we'll readjust it. With the weather there has been at the minute the pitches have been difficult trying to find areas.

"You can't plan anything really because there are moving sands all over the place.

"One of the few good things, if there are any good things, is that if you try and take the positives out of it then it gives two key players more time."

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