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.
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“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.
“We have basically been told since then we are off for the foreseeable and it will be re-assessed at the start of each day.”
Chester wasn’t fooled into thinking about an easy return to action, though.
The defender expected things to change even after an initial return date of April 4th was put up.
“When it was first announced as April 4, we could only see it getting worse in the near future rather than better, so I don’t think any of us actually believed football would begin again at that date.
“I did think it might happen in stages, in terms of playing behind closed doors, and then suspension. Now I’m not really sure where it goes from here.”
As for normal life, everyone in the Chester camp is coping fine right now, including his wife and child – however he, his family and other Stoke players are certainly acting with caution.
“I don’t know anyone who’s had any symptoms and hopefully it remains that way, but since last Tuesday I have been a little bit more cautious of going out. Certainly when thinking about my little boy, Henri, who is one, and my wife, Rea, who is four months pregnant.”
Keep that last part in mind from Chester – and stay indoors, to help protect the most vulnerable members of society.