Aston Villa boss Dean Smith opens up on ‘scary’ Covid outbreak that ripped through the club’s Bodymoor Heath training ground with NINE players infected as he admits he refused to touch any surfaces
- Aston Villa return to Premier League action on Wednesday against Man City
- Villa haven’t played a League game since January 1 after a Covid-19 outbreak
- Nine players and five staff members all tested positive for coronavirus
- Villa’s Bodymoor Heath training ground was allowed to re-open on Sunday
Dean Smith was so frightened by the coronavirus outbreak at Aston Villa’s training ground that he avoided touching any surface to protect himself against the disease.
In one of the worst cases of Covid-19 to hit the Premier League so far, nine players and five staff members tested positive for the virus earlier this month, forcing the entire first-team bubble to isolate for 10 days.
It meant the fixtures against Tottenham and Everton were postponed, while Villa fielded a team of Under-23 and Under-18 players in their FA Cup third-round defeat by Liverpool.
Dean Smith was among those who had to isolate after an outbreak of Covid-19 at Aston Villa
To avoid catching the virus, Smith opted not to touch any surfaces at Villa’s training ground
Smith indicated that only one player who had tested positive for the virus would be unavailable against Manchester City after the club’s Bodymoor Heath base was allowed to re-open on Sunday – but speaking for the first time about the incidents, Smith laid bare the severity of the situation.
‘It was very scary,’ said the Villa manager, who returned a negative result but still had to isolate. ‘We produced total negative tests on New Year’s Eve and then played Manchester United the following day.
‘We were tested again on January 3 and there were nine positives. That raised an alarm straightaway and we were tested the following day, and then we got another five positives after that.
Villa closed their Bodymoor Heath base (pictured) as nine players and five staff tested positive
‘It was a little bit worrying because nobody knew how it happened as we followed the protocols. Our bubble had been compromised.
‘It was a scary time because you didn’t really want to touch anything as you didn’t know how the virus was being transmitted. We had a nutritionist running around getting shopping delivered to players and staff.
‘A lot of the players, and staff, were asymptomatic but some symptoms crept up on people. I told one of the players that he’d had a positive test and he felt fine. He said “No chance, I’m in a good place”. Two days later when I spoke to him he was lying in bed with aches and pains.
‘Our doctor was outstanding. He had his hands full dealing with the Premier League as they wanted to know what would happen with our fixtures. It was all hands to the pump and I thought we dealt with it really well.’
Villa captain Jack Grealish and his team-mates will be back in action on Wednesday evening
By the time they play City, Villa will have four games in hand on some clubs but they will tick off another fixture on Saturday, when they take on Newcastle – who were hit badly by Covid late last year – at Villa Park on FA Cup fourth-round weekend.
They also plan to improve their squad with the £15million capture of Marseille midfielder Morgan Sanson, while Conor Hourihane has been allowed to join Swansea on loan.
Despite the outbreak, Smith never considered calling for the season to be paused. He added: ‘I believe it should continue. We knew there were going to be changes to fixtures and we were going into uncharted territory.
‘I have had to bear 10 days of self-isolation and it was not a problem, knowing there are a lot of people who have not been out of their house since last March. If we can keep the show on the road, I think we should.’
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