Aston Villa manager Steven Gerrard has revealed the current struggles he and his staff are facing with managing a new side now that stricter covid rules are once again being enforced.
The Villa boss has only been in position at Villa Park for just over a month and despite making a near instant impact in terms of changing the fortunes of the team’s results, he says it hasn’t come without its struggles.
Since the outbreak of the new strain of coronavirus, omicron, football clubs up and down the country have found themselves once again implementing strict measures in an attempt to stop the spread within their camps.
And that’s no different at Bodymoor Heath where Gerrard claims he is now speaking to the doctor on site more regularly than he does his own wife.
Team meetings have been shortened and distances enforced among other things and whilst that may seem like nothing, for a manager relatively new in his role - it makes the task of ‘managing’ a group of players - some who he still won’t know all that well - all the more difficult.
The former Liverpool captain loves to be hands-on with his side and by his own admission likes to have personal relationships with his players but with current restrictions, those close relationships are for now - ‘distant.’
“It’s a personal challenge,” Gerrard said.
“From my point of view I’ve got to try and be the person I want to be. I’ve got to try and build them relationships and have that bond with the players but it is restricting because you can only have meetings for up to 15 minutes. You can only have team meetings for up to 15 minutes.
“The rules are pretty strict and clear. I do like to have personal relationships with my players in terms of getting to know them and what they’re about and certainly in the last seven days the goalposts have moved and it is slightly more distant if you like which isn’t ideal but it’s the way it is.
“What everyone has got to do is adapt to and deal with it but yeah it is more challenging and I am more concerned and more worried.
“I’m spending a lot more of my time thinking about ‘what ifs?’ - hoping that people are going to be available to play rather than being calm and composed and knowing exactly what you’re dealing and working with so yeah it is more challenging for sure.
“I think you have to adapt day-to-day, hour by hour.
“As a manager you have got to wait until the last possible moment or until you are at least clear from Covid tests, whether they be lateral flow or PCR.
“I have an idea of a team in my head and I’ve given them a good idea of what that will look like but that can change at any given moment.
“I am probably speaking to the doctor at the moment more times than my wife, which isn’t a good thing. It lets you know you are facing a bigger challenge than you would in a normal situation.”
It’s not just the manager and his staff being affected though, it is of course, the players too.
The key word that Gerrard uses is uncertainty and if there’s one thing that human-beings don’t like, it’s being uncertain.
It once again requires a bit of a mentality shift from all involved, especially when it comes to match day preparation.
“We are all in uncertainty inside our bubble,” the manager added.
“You are testing every single day now and you are not allowed in the building until you get that negative lateral flow.
“Someone is coming to your car and giving you the thumbs up or the thumbs down, that is the situation. It isn’t ideal but it is how it has to be like.
“They are also having two PCRs and one of those is the day before the game. Today was even more uncertainty because you are not waiting for one test result but two.
“The players have accepted that but the whole world is going back to living in uncertainty because the goalposts have moved and the numbers have changed.
“The variant is out there and has a real fast growing transmission so everyone is expecting uncertainty and dealing with it. That’s just the way it is.”
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