Club Doctor: “You Couldn't Get A Safer Workplace”

By: Kevin Affleck

Club doctor Matthew Ogunsanya said the Premier League are pleased with the sterile environment created at the reconfigured training ground as the team prepares to resume contact training.

Representatives of the league visited the centre at London Colney yesterday as part of their league-wide spot checks to ensure clubs are strictly adhering to government and league guidelines in providing a safe environment for players and staff.

“They came down [yesterday] and were really pleased,” said Ogunsanya. “They were delighted with the process and protocol we had put in place and said we were one of the best they had visited.”

The club reported three positive tests last week, one player and two members of staff. All three self-isolated for seven days – in line with the protocols set out by the Premier League – and will return to the training ground today. Players and staff will continue to be tested twice a week.

“The confidence is going up after the largely negative results we've had,” Ogunsanya said. “Moving to contact training will be a process of educating the players and staff and providing reassurance. We are essentially breaking social distance rules by having contact in training, but we will be minimising any unnecessary close contact. You couldn't get a safer work place. We are in a very safe bubble.

“The risk is as low as it's going to be and the focus is on the task at hand. The closer we get to matches, the bigger the groups will become. We've been advised to go from five, to eight and then ten as we try to move towards relative normality. It all depends on the government and the Premier League. In the meantime we are doing our best to make it as safe as possible and reassure the players.”

Ogunsanya has left no stone turned to ensure the training ground is the safest environment possible

“A lot of planning went into the return,” he said. “There were an infinite amount of Zoom meetings, combing through Premier League guidelines and establishing protocol. As a result it's all changed. We've had to streamline the whole process. The players used to come in, socialise, have breakfast, do their gym work, get treatment, train and then hang around afterwards for media stuff or meetings. Now we have identified what the key operations are to get the players back onto the pitch and playing to the best possible standard amid the guidelines, so we have chopped almost everything else out.

“From a medical point of view, we used to have walk-ins for treatment. Now we have got a system and it's appointment only and that has to be booked 24 hours in advance. They can now do their stretching, mobility work and foam rolling at home. We have a lot less people in the treatment room as a result. The changing rooms are closed, the shower area is closed, the communal areas are closed and there is a one-way system in place.

“The players now drive in and meet me at the gate. I take their temperature, see if they have any symptoms, give them their supplements and they get out of their car and go straight onto the training pitch. They get three sets of kit and take it home and wash it now. It's a lot more streamlined and the players have bought into it. It wouldn't work otherwise. They turn up exactly on time, ask questions in advance, abide by social distancing and understand the gravity of the situation while still aware they are going to need to perform soon. They are listening to instructions, adhering to every single one and really trying to enjoy it.”

The players returned to the training ground last week for the first time since early March as they move towards restarting the season, when safe to do so.

“It's been good being back amid so much that has changed,” said Ogunsanya. “It's got that first-day-at-school feel. It's been really nice being back together, even though it's at a distance and we are only doing the basics. It's been nice to sit in a socially distanced circle and get a bit of the vibe back that you need in a group. We've had a really good buy-in from the players and they have listened to every word the gaffer and me have said to them. Everyone is looking forwards now and that mentality shift is really important over the next three or four weeks.”

The risk is as low as it's going to be and the focus is on the task at hand. The closer we get to matches, the bigger the groups will become.

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