Scott Parker has raised concerns about player welfare after branding the Premier League’s decision to rearrange Fulham’s game at Tottenham for Wednesday “unfair and wrong”.
The league first raised the possibility that Spurs could face Fulham – their original opponents Aston Villa had a coronavirus outbreak – over the weekend, but the final decision was taken on Monday morning.
Fulham had been due to play at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on December 30 before the squad returned a “significant number” of positive Covid-19 tests and had to have two matches postponed, with Parker worried that a number of players could suffer injuries after being forced back into the fold too soon.
The Fulham boss said: “There’s a risk of that. Of course there is. Is that risk more with us currently? Maybe because of the circumstances.
“But that risk is a lot higher for every team this year because of the circumstances. This is not just an injured player who has been out for 10 days and for three of those days has been doing some work on the grass or in the gym – this is 10 days locked in your house.
“This is 10 days you can’t come out and then after that you’re building someone in trying to get them to some sort of level to maybe play in the Premier League. So I think there’s no denying that that could heighten the injuries.”
Fulham’s last Premier League match was on Boxing Day, when they secured a goalless draw at home to Southampton before a number of players contracted coronavirus, but Parker said despite his feelings over the decision the squad will put in a performance on Wednesday.
He said: “We’ve had the time, obviously it is what it is, that’s not the issue. The squad have reacted fine to it, they’ve come in, prepared as well as we can, they’re raring to go, probably there is an element that they want to get back out and get back into the competition.
“Overall, it is what it is. I’m disappointed, I’m angry, I think it’s unfair and I think it’s wrong and that’s why I don’t agree with it and that’s why I’m angry about it.
“I think it’s wrong, I think it’s just outrageously wrong, but this is what happens in life sometimes, you have disappointments and you bounce back and it is what it is now. I’ve said my piece and the team will go out there, we’ll go out there and put in a performance on Wednesday night.”
It is understood Fulham were first informed of the possibility of playing Spurs on Wednesday ahead of their FA Cup tie against QPR on Saturday, with Villa having only made the postponement request to the Premier League that day.
The request from Villa had to be received and signed off before Fulham could be contacted. Confirmation was only possible on Monday once all the clubs and broadcasters affected by the rescheduling had been consulted.
Fulham were signatories last September to a set of guiding principles which are contained within the league’s handbook. One of these states: “Clubs must accept changes to normal conditions and schedules in order to ensure the completion of the competition.”
In section C of the handbook it states the league can, “having given consideration to the health and safety of participating players, (require) that clubs participate in matches at more frequent intervals than initially scheduled”.