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💪 "We're all in this together and we have to fight our way through it"

Royals boss gives fans an update on last week's training and the state of play for our players as it stands...

23 March 2020

"We're all worried about our health and our families, but the players, the staff, the fans...everybody is in this together," Royals boss Mark Bowen told BBC Radio Berkshire this weekend.

"And together we’ve just got to fight our way through it. Hopefully things get better sooner rather than later and football gets underway again - and with performances and results we can get our fans smiling again and forgetting the troubles of the world."

The Royals' first team continued to train last week as an ever-changing picture of government guidance and social distancing measures began to impact the country and training ground activities across UK. But now, acting upon advice from the medical experts, the squad are staying safe at home this week.

"We found that the game last Saturday against Stoke City was postponed and then, over the weekend we lost two or three players to self isolation. All were precautionary but they were both told to stay at home.

"And as the week went on, we made a decision to carry on training the best we could and we had good numbers, 20 odd players, and we had some really good training sessions on the Monday and the Tuesday.


"They had Wednesday off, and on Thursday a couple more players had a few cold symptoms – and we didn’t want to take any chances with any of the players so they stayed at home.

"The guys who have been in training last week have been really professional. The sessions have been a bit subdued at the start – probably because they’ve got the more important things on their mind.

"But as the sessions have gone on there’s been a good feeling, they’ve been able to forget some of the worries of the world and have enjoyed the football they are playing.

"And they really have worked hard. But on Friday we made a decision to tell the players to stay at home for at least this week. Of course, it could change again – if the guidance is to stay away or I'm getting phone calls that six or seven players have come down with symptoms, we might have to change our plans again.

"Last week it was very much a case of making the players aware of the severity of the situation and what is at stake. To a man they’ve all been very mature in their thinking. We had meetings on a daily basis and you try to give them assurances with the club doctors giving them advice, supplying them with as much information as we can.

"The sessions themselves, we tried to take the tactical element out of the training and make it more like a school playground – just telling them to go and enjoy their football.

"You can’t go through too much tactically because you don’t know when you might be playing your next game, who it might be against and how long that information can stick in their heads for. So we just tried to keep it really bright and the enthusiasm high."

The stark reality is that, while we all want football to resume as fast as physically possible, we are entirely guided by the experts on how best to protect ourselves and others at this difficult time.

"Everybody knows that physical health takes preference over everything," the Royals boss continued. "But from a football point of view, of course if we can get the season done, if we can draw a line under it and move on, then there is no confusion on the outcomes.

"We are lucky in a small way that there are only nine games left – if there were 15 or 16 games left what would you do in that situation – but if you can get those nine games done in three or four weeks, behind closed doors or whatever it might take, then we can get the season done.

"The key question is when do you start again – you could put a date on it and then when you get to that date, at any given club, you could have a large number of players missing with the virus or in isolation. So we don’t know. None of us know.

"The earliest they’ve told us that we might be able to play again is the start of May, but they’ll have to judge that on what happens in the coming weeks and what those weeks bring us in terms of the virus and its spread.

"Naturally, everybody is worried about this virus and their health. We have worries, like anyone. But our worries are nothing compared to those who might lose their jobs, lose their business, not have enough money in their pockets. We are in the football industry and are very privileged. My heart really goes out to those living 'in the real world' if you like, who have the additional worry of having to put food on their table and pay the mortgage. Compared to many, our worries pale into insignificance.

"People look forward to watching football. And if football is being played, it gives people a focus. That is why I hope we can get back out there to help our fans through these difficult times."

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