Sheffield Utd’s Wilder would not pressure players into quick return

LONDON (AFP) – Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder said on Thursday that he will not pressure any of his players to return to action if they are wary of health risks when the Premier League gets the green light to resume.

Clubs from England’s top flight are due to meet next Monday, a day after British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to ease a nationwide lockdown, to discuss their latest plans for ‘Project Restart’.

But there are concerns over player welfare if they return to contact sport when social distancing guidelines are still in place.

“If any individual player took that decision and came to me and said, ‘It’s not for me’, I’d respect that,” Wilder told BeIN Sports.

Germany’s Bundesliga is leading the way for Europe’s top leagues and will return on May 16 behind closed doors.

File photo shows Sheffield United’s manager Chris Wilder instructing his player during a match. PHOTO: SKY SPORTS

The Premier League is hoping for a return next month at the earliest, with clubs standing to lose an estimated GBP1 billion in revenue if the campaign cannot be completed, mostly from huge television contracts.

Sheffield United were enjoying a brilliant first season back in the top-flight when the campaign was halted in March due to the spread of coronavirus.

Wilder’s men were just five points off the top four with a game in hand and had progressed to the quarter-finals of the FA Cup.

And the 52-year-old, who has worked in the lower leagues for most of his managerial career, said he is aware of the importance of the top-flight finishing for funds to trickle down the pyramid.

“I think we finish the season, however long it takes. The Premier League has shown enormous enthusiasm,” he added.

“My chief exec is and not just because we’re in the position that we are. I think everybody that is in the know understands the implications if this season was scrapped.

“I’ve obviously had experience of working in all levels of football and I do understand the implications if the Premier League didn’t restart – the effect that that would have down the pyramid as well. We’ve got to look after all aspects of football.”