On tenterhooks – Stoke City boss lifts lid on health and weekend prospects

Michael O’Neill has spoken publicly for the first time since testing positive for coronavirus – and he insists he’s in fine fettle and raring to go to Reading.

O’Neill has been self-isolating at his Wilmslow flat for the last 11 days and was today hoping to get the green light to travel with his players to  Reading ahead of tomorrow’s return to action (3pm).

“I am fine,” O’Neill asserted.

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“Obviously I have been self-isolating for ten days, I get to escape (Friday) and go to the training ground and, unless I develop symptoms in the next 24 or 48 hours, then I will be at the game on Saturday.”

Stoke’s pre-match preparations will be very different so as to comply with strict health regulations in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

O’Neill explained: “They are a little bit more difficult than normal because we don’t have access to the (training) building.

“We have found a solution to that in terms of player travel. The players will travel on two coaches, social distance, we’ll not bring auxiliary players because I feel the squad is big enough with 20 players.

“It increases risk and makes social distancing more difficult with numbers.

“The only thing is we anticipate leaving slightly later. Not very much later, but slightly just because we want to have the test results back from (Thursday’s) testing before we embark on a two-and-a-half to three hour coach journey.

“They are the arrangements and then when we get to the hotel we have assurances that they will be able to cater for us.”

He continued: “Listen, it is going to be a little bit challenging.

“It is a new experience because the players will not have the same freedom on the coach, they will not have the same freedom in the hotel, but it will give us a bit of time to arrange meeting rooms and do additional preparation work that we would normally do the night before a game.”

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