Chris Wilder suspects clubs are using Covid-19 as an excuse to force postponements.
The Middlesbrough boss was furious when the EFL insisted they recall loan players to fulfil today’s trip to Sheffield United, despite losing nine players and 10 staff to the virus this week.
The EFL eventually relented on Friday afternoon and the game was postponed after further positive cases.
Chris Wilder (above) suspects clubs are using Covid-19 as an excuse to force postponements
But Wilder said: ‘People have been cutting corners. We’re not. This is genuine. I’m not that type of manager, this isn’t that type of club. This is 100 per cent a Covid outbreak. We have one injury, and he could play for 30 minutes.
‘Let’s put the cards on the table. Will some clubs have bent the rules to dodge a fixture? In my opinion, 100 per cent.
‘I’m a man of integrity and honesty. I will play a game anywhere against anybody on a level playing field. But we have been absolutely decimated from a player and staff point of view.’
Middlesbrough’s squad was left decimated after the club recorded 20 positive cases
Before confirmation of the postponement, Wilder had said: ‘The blunt message we keep getting back from the EFL is, “You have an obligation to fulfil this fixture”.
‘I’ve not seen other clubs have to recall anybody (from loan), so for this to start now, I’ve got to say is quite baffling. I can’t get my head around that.’
Wilder described the situation as ‘the most difficult 48 hours of his 20-year managerial career’.
The former Blades boss said it was the ‘the most difficult 48 hours of his 20-year managerial career’
Following the postponement, the club insisted they had been left in an ‘impossible situation’ regarding available players.
In a brief statement posted to Middlesbrough’s official website, the club said: ‘Our first team squad has been decimated by positive tests for COVID-19, and it has left us in an impossible situation regarding available players.
‘It’s with disappointment that we had to take the step of requesting a postponement, particularly given the fact that the measures we have been taking since the start of the pandemic have ensured we have been able to fulfil all of our previous fixtures.
Assistant manager Alan Knill (above) is among the ten members of staff who are positive
‘We would like to thank our supporters as well as the EFL and Sheffield United for their understanding and co-operation.’
In addition to the loss of key members of the full-strength XI, members of staff including Alan Knill, Matt Prestridge, club analysts, coaches and three kit-men have all tested positive.
Before the postponement, Wilder had said he was preparing to call players back from loan after the EFL appeared set to force Middlesbrough to fulfil the fixture.
‘The game is on. We’ve talked to the EFL, who have told us we need to do everything we can to get it on.
‘We have a number of players that are available and what they’ve wanted us to do is supplement that group with players out on loan. I can’t get my head around that.
‘I’ll be making a call to Steve Cooper to see if we can have Djed Spence back to sit on the bench. And the same with Lewis Wing. And Rumarn Burrell. We have players travelling down on their own to Sheffield.
‘We’ll have to recall the likes of Stephen Walker, Lewis Wing.’
Lewis Wing (left) had been expected to be recalled from loan at Sheffield Wednesday
The news follows the Football League decision to abandon matchday testing in an attempt to prevent last-minute postponements of fixtures.
The last-minute postponements have angered supporters and concerned clubs. But now, the EFL’s medical advisors have agreed testing on the day of the game only needs to happen if a player is showing symptoms of Covid.
Middlesbrough had one Covid case in the camp earlier in the week ahead of their 2-1 win at Blackpool on Wednesday night.
However, that number multiplied significantly on Thursday and more tests were due to be taken on Friday morning. Sources say the squad has been ‘decimated’ by the spread of the virus.
Wilder’s side are the Championship’s in-form team and have climbed to fifth on the back of his arrival last month. They have won their last three on the spin and have taken 17 points from a possible 24 under the new boss.