‘I’ve only been tested four times... I’ve never felt comfortable with this’ – Lambert voices coronavirus safety concerns

Ipswich Town manager Paul Lambert. Photo: PA

Ipswich Town manager Paul Lambert. Photo: PA - Credit: PA

Ipswich Town manager Paul Lambert has revealed he’s only been tested four times for coronavirus and admitted he’s not comfortable with football continuing during a second national lockdown.

Following a six-month shut down period, League One and Two action resumed in September under strict Covid-19 protocols. And it’s been announced this week that elite sport will continue amidst a second national lockdown.

At Ipswich, the players are still not allowed to use canteen, changing and gym facilities at the Playford Road training ground, while only a handful of staff are using the main building.

However, the players are spending long periods sat on the team coach together for away game and are, obviously, in full contact during training sessions and matches.

Striker Kayden Jackson and first team coach Matt Gill have both tested positive for the virus in recent weeks, with Lambert staying away from the 1-0 home win against Gillingham as a precaution. Defender Luke Woolfenden is currently self isolating after coming into close contact with an individual who has tested positive.

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“Yeah – and this is where it’s wrong,” said Lambert, when asked if there was a fear that Covid-19 could sweep through the camp at some stage.

“I was talking to a sporting director in Germany last night and he asked me how many times I’ve been tested. I said ‘four’. Then he told me he’s been tested 42 times! That’s in the Bundesliga III, their third division, so the equivalent of us, and they get tested twice a week. We only getting tested if you’re not feeling good.

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“They’ve got tested 42 times since they’ve come back and we’ve been tested four. It’s an incredible disparity.

“Woolfy, Kayden, myself, Gilly have all had to self isolate. It’s incredible, absolutely incredible the way we’ve gone about it.”

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Lambert continued: “I saw Pep Guardiola’s comments about it the other day and he said ‘why should football be different to anything else?’ It shouldn’t, because it’s the same world we’re living in. I don’t feel comfortable with what the EFL are doing and I’ve never felt comfortable with it – that goes way back to March.

“We’re being tested sporadically. We’re not getting the same treatment as the Premier League. Why is the disparity so big? Because of the finances?

“We’ve been travelling to regional lockdown areas and staying in hotels. You’re on a line of fear really, hoping nobody gets it.”

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Asked if money needed to filter down from the Premier League to pay for a more regular testing programme – which at the moment costs Town around £5,000 a time – Lambert said: “A million per cent. Why are we different? There’s got to be some help coming from somewhere, be it the government or higher up the pyramid.

“You’re right about us being no different to anyone else in terms of having vulnerable people in our lives. My parents are older, other guys have parents that are older. You can’t see them thinking you might be carrying it.

“We’re not on this pedestal where we are above anybody in any walk of life. We’re human beings. Football may be our job, but I’m no different to you or anybody else. We need to be the same as anybody else.”

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Asked if he felt he and his staff and players were being put into a dangerous situation, Lambert said: “I think sometimes, yes. It’s the unknown, it’s all the uncertainties. Some of the guys could wake up on the morning of a game and say ‘I don’t feel well’. You have to declare it, you have to get tested, then everybody else thinks ‘am I going to get it?’ Nobody knows where we are.

“How can my friend in the German league be tested 42 times since they’ve come back and I’ve been tested four or so. How is that disparity so big?”

When it was put to Lambert that Woolfenden could have been carrying the virus asymptotically during long coach trips to Doncaster and Lincoln recently, Lambert replied: “Yeah, exactly.

“Brett McGavin was sent home on Tuesday night and thankfully he’s okay. Any other year if you have a cold or a cough you just think ‘I’ve got the flu’, but now you’re into a different realm really.”

Jackson, who has just returned to action following a 14-day period of self isolation, said: “It’s a strange one, because we’d all travelled and been in close contact with each other. When I started feeling ill I just thought ‘you have to do the best thing for the team and stay away’. I reported it immediately and thankfully it was only me that caught it.

“There were a couple of days where I felt pretty bad, but after that I felt pretty fine. It was like a bit if flu or just a bad cold really. I’ve not had any of the problems that you see reported in the press thankfully.”

Asked if the players were comfortable playing in the current situation, Jackson said: “It’s tough. Obviously health comes first, but mental health is massive too and I think if you take away sport, not only for us players but also fans as well, then I think it would make the second lockdown extremely tough. I don’t think a lot of people would get through it without being able to watch or partake in sport.

“It’s good that we are able to carry on. You see all the measures we take. The club have been unbelievable in terms of keeping players isolated. The fact that nobody else in the building caught it when I did goes to show that the measures that are there are taking effect.”

Town defender Stephen Ward said: “I’ve got no problem with it (playing on during a lockdown), not at all. I played through the first one (at Stoke). Football has put the protocols in place. We’ve got plenty of room at the training ground for social distancing. They’re on top of everything with temperature checks, filling out questionnaires before training and before playing. So I’ve got no problem doing it.”

Back in May, Blues midfielder Cole Skuse said he ‘had personal things to consider’ when it came to returning to playing football amidst the Covid-19 pandemic given his wife Louisa is a Type 1 diabetic.

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