Will this be Stoke City manager’s biggest problem after testing positive for coronavirus?

Our columnist ROBBIE EARLE has been assessing the Michael O’Neill situation and sees a potential problem over the next week for the manager and his Stoke City players…

“There’s no doubt that Michael O’Neill’s positive coronavirus test has been a jolt for everybody.

With Project Restart in the Premier League and everything in place for the Championship to get going again, it was seemingly full steam ahead for a version of competitive football once again.

But O’Neill’s test result is a reminder that we are not out of the woods, we are still in the midst of this terrible pandemic.

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People like him are still catching it and, tragically, hundreds are still dying every day in the UK and in their thousands around the world.

It’s a reminder that we need to carry on being careful in these strange times.

And football wise, it only takes a few cases once the season resumes and it could change the whole outlook drastically.

The Championship has talked about how they might curtail the season if it did have to end early and the case of Michael O’Neill certainly brings a cold reality.

In the meantime, may I join everyone else in wishing him a speedy recovery.

I’m sure it was a shock to him as well as those around him because football is probably the most controlled environment it can reasonably be at the moment because of coronavirus.

Things will be a bit different for O’Neill and his players as a result over the next week or so.

I know we have become used to virtual meetings and talking at distance over the past few months, but he will find it difficult.

During his time at Stoke he has already shown what a good man manager he is.

He is clearly one of those managers who loves being in and around his players, testing the temperature of the group so to speak, so he knows when to put an arm around the shoulders of someone or give them, or the group, a rocket.

He will have his coaching staff there in his place, of course, but it’s never quite the same.

I remember when our manager at Wimbledon was away from training for whatever reason, it was never quite the same from our perspective, but you certainly jumped back to attention when he returned.”

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