Sheffield United boss Chris Wilder would not be surprised if the Premier League season was suspended again as cases of coronavirus continue to rise across the country.
The rate of infection has risen since a new strain was detected towards the end of 2020. Chris Whitty, England’s chief medical officer, has warned that the UK has not yet hit the peak of the current wave as the number of cases, deaths and hospitalisations increase, with the next few weeks being described as “the worst” of the pandemic for the NHS.
Five top-flight fixtures have been postponed because of Covid-19 so far this season, while some clubs were forced to field much-weakened sides in the FA Cup third round this weekend. One of them, Aston Villa, have had to postpone their Premier League game against Tottenham on Wednesday.
The 2019/20 campaign was halted between March and June due to the pandemic. A similar delay this season would be problematic, with the European Championship, moved from 2020, rescheduled for this summer.
Asked if he thought the season would be completed, Wilder said: “I don’t think anyone would be surprised (if it wasn’t). Everyone knows the situation and if it gets suspended I don’t think it’d be a surprise.
“But I’ve been consistent with it, I’ve said all the way through that I want to come into work and play games. That’s been our stance and it’s been left with the Government in conjunction with the Premier League, but I personally don’t think anybody would be surprised because it’s just taken off.
“From the fantastic news regarding the vaccine we’ve been hit by a sucker punch straight away in terms of what the new strain is chucking out there. Everybody puts the TV on and it’s the first item on the news, the numbers keep soaring up and rising.
“We’ll just go with what the Government and Premier League have to say and, if it’s the case to carry on, we’ll carry on. But I don’t think I’m being controversial if I say I don’t think anyone would be surprised if we don’t carry on with the way it’s sweeping through the country.”
If the season was not completed it could work in the Blades’ favour as they are cut adrift at the bottom of the Premier League after losing 15 of their 17 matches and look destined for relegation.
Wilder’s team will bid for a first league win of the campaign when they host Newcastle at Bramall Lane on Tuesday evening.
George Baldock, Enda Stevens, Billy Sharp and Phil Jagielka all missed the FA Cup win against Bristol Rovers on Saturday, while Lys Mousset went off injured at the Memorial Stadium.
Asked if any of the five players could be back in contention for the visit of the Magpies, Wilder replied: “We’d like to think some of those will. It’s touch and go on a couple.
“Hopefully all five will be available at the weekend, but we don’t know if all five will be available on Tuesday.”