Ex-Stoke City icon makes drastic appeal as defender opens up on coronavirus delay


Arnautovic appeal

Marko Arnautovic has issued a public address from quarantine to urge anyone in Europe new to the idea to “take the situation seriously”.

The former Stoke City favourite moved from West Ham to Shanghai SIPG last summer – but has not been playing since the coronavirus outbreak in January.

Thaidland’s Buriram United raised concerns about an Asian Champions League qualifying play-off against Shanghai because of the disease and since then football in the country has been in hiatus.

Arnautovic’s club has kept the squad largely in Dubai over the following couple of months – and that is where Arnautovic is back now, and back in quarantine, after a short family holiday in Germany.

He has now sent a message to ZIB 2, an Austrian television show, with a message for countries which are now facing or experiencing lock down for the first time.

“Dear people! I am addressing you today with an urgent appeal,” he said.

“Take the situation seriously, stay at home! Only go out of the house for urgent errands. This way you protect yourself and the others. Especially your grandparents.

“I’ve already had several quarantines and believe me, there are worse things.

“In this sense: stick to the regulations and stay healthy. Your Marko!”

There is hope starting to build in China, where new reported cases of coronavirus have been imported by people entering the country rather than transmitted within, that society including football will be able to return to something approaching normality before too long.

An unnamed player at second division Meizhou Hakka tested positive on Wednesday, although that too was said to have been brought into China and then contained following a training camp in Thailand.

There are reports that the Chinese Super League could be up and running by early May, as long as there is approval from the Chinese Government.

Most clubs have started to head back after extended pre-seasons in Europe or the Middle East.

But the Asian Football Confederation announced on Wednesday that the AFC Cup will be suspended until further notice, a week after some of the matches in the competition were played behind closed doors.

Chester Account

James Chester has opened up on the effects the coronavirus have caused to the Stoke City camp, as a number of delays have thrown the EFL schedule into chaos.

Potters defender Chester, on loan from Aston Villa, was caught off guard by the spread of the coronavirus, despite doing his research.

“For a while I was aware of what was happening in other parts of the world, watching the news, but never did I believe it would affect us the way it has.” said the centre-half in an exclusive interview with The Athletic.

As the world reels from the spread of the infectious virus, Chester believes that footballers are making changes – especially in terms of interests.

“This is probably the most I’ve ever seen footballers interested in politics. It’s the main topic of everyone’s conversation at the minute. The illness, the lack of food, the financial implications for the country,” said Chester.

What is going on at Stoke? According to the Welsh international, the last training session took place over a week ago, with players preparing for league action.

The game, against Reading, never took place – with football activity being suspended until late April.

“Our last training session at Stoke was Friday, March 13. We turned up as normal believing we were playing the game the next day, away to Reading, and had the usual meeting on the opposition,” added Chester.

“Then coming out of that meeting it was announced that the league had been suspended until April 4. We trained as normal that day but were sent away that weekend, with the intention of coming back in Monday. Over the weekend it then changed to Wednesday, and on Tuesday the prime minister spoke about social distancing and it changed again.

Full Story

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Championship TOTY

Who knows when we will get to see the PFA Championship team of the year for 2019/20.

There are nine games remaining but the coronavirus has put everything on hold until at least April 30 – and it could go way beyond that, with debates and negotiations to go on for the weeks and months ahead.

But, using player ratings from WhoScored – who use truck loads of data from Opta to rank each individual performance – we have compiled the best XI for the big chunk of the term we have already played.

Here, in a traditional 4-4-2 are the pick of the lot.

And bad luck to Stoke City midfielder Sam Clucas, who misses out by a four-hundredths of a mark.

Full Story

Money Tree

EFL chair Rick Parry has warned clubs that the governing body would struggle to give more than the £50m they have already pledged to help those struggling.

This means that Stoke City, and other clubs outside of the top tier will need to ensure that any relief funds go a long way.

Clubs outside of the Premier League are concerned over cash-flow issues.

The EFL confirmed on Wednesday night that a £50m package to help clubs enduring immediate cash flow problems due to the coronavirus outbreak would be able to be used.

General view inside the stadium

It was confirmed on Thursday afternoon that all professional football in England would remain postponed until April 30 at the earliest.

The postponement of games has left clubs, especially in League One and League Two, feeling the pinch and worrying about their immediate future.

 “That would be a stretch,” Parry replied on BBC Radio 5 Live on Saturday afternoon when asked if any more money would be made available for clubs.

“The money we have amassed really ought to be enough to get through three months of matchday revenue.

“What it does not do is come anywhere close to covering the wage bill for that  period, but we don’t have a money tree, and frankly no-one does.

While Parry also revealed that he would rather sit down and work out a clear plan moving forward with the Premier League than go to them with a begging bowl.

“I’m not a fan of the begging bowl culture,” he said.

“I think it is much better in dialogue with the Premier League to talk about sustainable futures and how we might be able to have a reset going forward.

“I think us going looking for hands out, it is better to go with a self-help mentality.

“This is what we have done. This is the problem we are in. How can we all help to produce a better future.

“Because as strange as it may seem, Premier League clubs will have their own problems and their own shortages.

“The numbers are a lot bigger there end but to suggest they are sitting on cash mounts is simply not true.”

Parry concluded by revealing that he and the EFL are working on ways to control costs at clubs moving forward.

“We need a game that is much more sustainable,” he added. “We have already been looking at ways to control costs.

“In the Championship, wages cover a 107 percent turnover of clubs. That is completely and utterly unsustainable in any climate.

“In this climate it comes home to roost very quickly when there is no money coming in through the door.

“We were already looking at it. So maybe this is a reminder that we need to look at it a little bit more quickly.

“We need to look at having better cost control measures as if this doesn’t focus minds nothing will.”





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