Lampard vows to stop hugs as Allardyce hits out at government ‘nonsense’

Frank Lampard has admitted he is trying to coach his players out of the urge to celebrate, as teams received their sternest warning yet that they should stop hugging after scoring a goal. But Sam Allardyce, while endorsing the regulations, hit back at what he saw as the “absolute nonsense” of the Conservatives focusing on football.

The FA, EFL and Premier League issued a joint statement on Thursday evening calling on their clubs to adhere to reinforced Covid guidelines and government rules, both off and on the pitch, after continuing public criticism from politicians.

The governing bodies insisted that the season will be able to continue smoothly if players comply but Lampard admitted that getting players to change behaviour that is normally central to the game, is not altogether easy.

“We practise social distancing as much as we can in the training ground,” Lampard said as he prepared for Chelsea’s match against Fulham on Saturday, already a victim of Covid rescheduling. “On the pitch it can be difficult at times, but in training I suppose the instinct shouldn’t grab you as much as it would when you’re scoring in the Premier League to win a game. For sure it’s something I will pass on to the players and you see a lot of these group hugs now when they win a five-a-side so that will be something we’ll look at.”

The English football authorities’ statement said: “The game has a responsibility and during this next critical period it is down to everyone involved to ensure they follow government rules and our protocols.

“We have seen the huge contribution players have made to the national effort and they must continue to use their influence in demonstrating the importance of following the rules. With full compliance to our Covid-19 protocols – alongside effective testing regimes – we are confident at the halfway point of the season that, with the support of all, the 2020-21 campaign will continue to its conclusion in May.”

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Stoke suspend McClean for Covid-19 breach

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Stoke winger James McClean (pictured) has been suspended by the club and will miss the Championship game against Blackburn on Saturday after the 31-year-old allegedly breached Covid-19 regulations. 

“Stoke City can confirm that James McClean has been suspended with immediate effect pending a disciplinary hearing into an alleged breach of Covid-19 regulations, namely training in a private gym,” an official club statement said.

Photograph: John Mallett/Rex Features

The response came after the sports minister, Nigel Huddleston, had called for “strict” enforcement of Covid protocols in football and the Conservative chair of the digital, culture, media and sport select committee, Julian Knight, suggested players should be booked for hugging.

Allardyce, after stressing the need to follow the rules, said: “But I get a little peeved with players called for being irresponsible. Why the government want to intervene is an absolute nonsense with the mess they’re making of it at the moment.

“Their care has not been the greatest and it’s irresponsible the government wants to intervene in football, they need to look at their own house before they look at ours.”