'Morally, I think us playing football is wrong' - Covid-19 and pneumonia hit Lambert calls for season to be halted

Town manager Paul Lambert watching the Swindon Town defeat from Ipswich Town owner Marcus Evans exec

Paul Lambert revealed he was close to being hospitalised with Covid-19. - Credit: Picture: Steve Waller www.stephenwaller.com

Ipswich Town manager Paul Lambert went on national radio this morning to say he believes it is 'morally wrong' for football to continue given the rapid rise in Covid-19 cases.

Lambert was among 11 staff and players at the club to have tested positive for Covid-19 prior to Christmas, with the 51-year-old Scot still recovering after suffering badly with symptoms.

Ipswich had four games postponed over the festive and New Year period, but returned to action with a 3-2 home defeat to Swindon last weekend. There's now a packed schedule of Saturday-Tuesday action ahead, including long cross country trips to Hull, Fleetwood and Accrington, despite the fact that the UK is in lockdown and continues to post daily four figure Covid-19 death toll figures.  

Asked on BBC 5 Live Breakfast whether football should be stopped, Lambert said: “I think there’s a strong case for it. I’ve had it and I’m going by the symptoms, the way I felt. It was the worst ever, it really was.

Lee O'Neill talks to club owner Marcus Evans at Wycombe Wanderers Picture Pagepix

Lee O'Neill (left) pictured alongside former owner Marcus Evans. - Credit: Archant

“The NHS people and the care workers are doing an incredible job of putting themselves on the line, and footballers are asked to go and play a game. I just don’t get it. It’s not entertainment, it’s not the same game without fans. It’s not the same game.”

Do other people in football hold a similar view?

“A lot of them I’ve spoken to because footballers are human beings as well, they’re human and morally I think us playing football is wrong.

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“I get it why people want us (to continue) as it keeps everybody right, but who’s protecting the players and the staff at every other club because they’re going to get it, and they have been getting it, as you’ve seen.

“It doesn’t matter how stringent the protocols are, the virus seeps in somewhere and it’s opening everything out.

“Now the new rules on whether we can celebrate or not celebrate, can we shake hands, can we not shake hands, everything’s coming on top of football at the minute and I think it’s a heavy weight to carry.”

Players are being called on not to celebrate goals due to the risks of spreading the virus but Lambert says that’s a natural aspect of the game.

“I’ve had it, I’m still recovering," he said. "I’ve never felt as bad as this for years and years, I can’t remember the last time I felt as bad as this, so it’s certainly real, that’s for sure.

Alan Judge scores the Ipswich second goal in the 2-3 to Swindon Town.

Alan Judge was one of the eight Ipswich Town players to have tested positive for Covid-19 prior to Christmas. Photo: Steve Waller - Credit: Picture: Steve Waller www.stephenwaller.com

“I just don’t get it, we’re asked to play football and celebrations are part of the game, it is an instinct thing, you run to your team-mate.

“If that’s the Government rules, or what they’re laying down is that if someone scores a goal 'don’t go near them', then everybody has to try and get that in their head. But it’s a difficult thing.

“The thing for me is that there are too many questions being asked about what’s right and what’s wrong.

“If the players do something wrong they get criticised, but they’re asked to play, which I don’t get because you’re stopping tennis, you’re stopping golf. They’re metres apart but you’re asking footballers to play when they’re inches apart, so I don’t get it. But this Covid thing is really, really incredible, what’s happened to the world.”

Kayden Jackson celebrating with teammate Emyr Huws who scored Towns second goal of the evening, to s

Emyr Huws and Kayden Jackson celebrate the late win against Burton in December - a shared moment which led to Covid-19 tests at the club. Photo: Steve Waller - Credit: Picture: Steve Waller www.ste

Is it possible to have more muted, socially-distanced celebrations?

“You’re going to have to find it from somewhere. I’m pretty sure if you played football as a kid in the park and you scored a goal or your mate scored a goal, you’d run up to them and say ‘well done’. You’d have to get that instinct when your team-mate’s scored a goal you leave him be.

“As I said before, I was unfortunate, I had it and it was horrendous, it’s a horrendous virus.

“We’re making so many rules for football so it can get finished, we’re asking players to go into different tiers.

“I know they’re getting tested negative (with new twice weekly testing protocols, paid by the PFA, now in place), but you never know when this thing can get you. It can get you in the blink of an eye really and I think that’s the big thing - football still has to go and play and try and put entertainment on.

“It’s not entertainment any more, and this is my opinion, it’s not entertainment this is just trying to get a season finished and try and move on.”

Asked how he contracted the virus, Lambert explained: “It was a really strange one because one of the lads at the club got tested and it came back negative, but his flu test came back positive.

“We had a goal celebration and we thought he had it and he it turned out he never had it, it turned out one of the other lads had it.

“So we all got tested and all of a sudden I think about eight of us got it, including another member of staff, and I was nowhere near them. I was two metres apart from them in the dressing room.

“But you never know where you get it from. I don’t know, I really don’t. But what I do know is that I’ve never felt as bad as that in my life.

“When you’re in the shower, your hair is sore, your head’s sore, the headaches and pneumonia, everything was breaking down. So I’ve got a strong opinion on it, I just don’t see how football should be exempt.”

He added: “You’re asking players to go and play a game when everybody else can’t move into different tiers. For example, how can Ipswich go and travel to play Sunderland or Fleetwood or wherever?

“Everybody’s in the same boat where we are with this virus, nobody’s immune to getting it. How can you stop tennis and how can you stop other tiers of football playing and keep the bigger ones going?”