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Millwall boss talks about pushing back training return and why Den is set to play a part in any Championship preparations

BY RICHARD CAWLEY
richard@slpmedia.co.uk

Millwall’s players will not resume training until April 3 with manager Gary Rowett expected to look at staging a training ground game at The Den to build sharpness before the Championship campaign resumes.

The FA, Premier League and EFL produced a joint statement at the end of last week pushing back any resumption of their competitions until at least April 30.

But the chances of that date slipping even further looks likely due to the spread of the coronavirus.

Rowett said: “It [April 3] might be unrealistic but I hope it’s not – I hope it’s not for everyone’s sake and the country’s sake because it will mean the virus has been reduced to a certain degree.

“I’m sat at home and reading about people dying and nurses working hard and you can’t help but feel proud of how much people put themselves out for others.

“Football is the least of our worries but it would be fantastic if it was safe to come back and play April 30. But what happens if on April 4 that four players from the same team contract it? That would mean you couldn’t play that team. There are so many different moving parts.

“At first there weren’t clear guidelines about what we were meant to do [in terms of training]. We are a business and wanted to make sure we carried on training if we could – but as soon as the new guidelines came through then there was a moral responsibility to do our bit and leave the players off for the current timescale. I think 95 per cent of teams will be doing that.

“We’re trying to balance what is important for the club and fans but also the bigger picture – which is to make sure everyone does the right thing, stays at home and tries not to spread it further.”

Millwall’s last action was the 3-0 win at Forest on March 6.

“Fitness generally tends to decline a little bit after four or five days – we’re only two to three days into not training while some clubs are maybe two weeks in,” said Rowett.  “Realistically the season could resume on May 2 – because that’s a Saturday – so that would be just over four weeks of training.

“Pre-season training tends to be five or five-and-a-half weeks. So is it more sensible to let them decondition a little and have a breather when you are 35 games in?

“We’re going to maintain our levels and pick it back up when we come back in. The challenge for every team is going to be the lack of game time and match specific training which we’ll certainly factor in as soon as we come back to recreate games on a Saturday.

“We might have to use The Den, if it is feasible. I know some teams before it all happened were talking about inter-club friendlies but my argument is to keep it in-house so that everybody gets match conditioning and not just 11 players.

“This is all secondary to what is going on but my job as manager is to try and plan as to what we need.

“We have plans for being away from the training ground for two weeks and we have plans if it is longer.

“My main concern is the players, their families and the general population – to ensure they are as safe as they can be. I’ve seen some pictures of people still in big groups and I just find it ridiculous. You have got to be a lot more responsible.”

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