Struggling Blades' boss Wilder decries international break amid pandemic

FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - Premier League - Sheffield United v Leeds United - Bramall Lane, Sheffield, Britain - September 27, 2020 Sheffield United's Chris Wilder Pool via REUTERS/Oli Scarff

(Reuters) - Managers could have done without the international break just four games into the new season while the COVID-19 pandemic has complicated matters with players being unavailable, Sheffield United boss Chris Wilder said on Friday.

After the pandemic extended the previous season into August, teams did not have their usual pre-season preparation before the 2020-21 campaign got underway and Wilder said the early international break has hampered teams further.

The Blades, who finished ninth on their return to the top flight last season, have started the new term with four straight defeats and play bottom side Fulham on Sunday.

“It’s been really difficult. Every manager that has been affected by international call-ups would have said that it was far from acceptable or comfortable with what’s happened since we’ve come back,” Wilder told reporters.

“Players, straight away after a game or two, were away on international duty. All pre-season plans were going to be different... We’ve had seven, eight, nine players flying all over the place which makes it difficult to do any preparation.”

Wilder also said he had a problem with one of his players being unavailable due to COVID-19 related issues and admitted he thought international football should not be played amid the pandemic.

Although Wilder did not name the player, defender John Egan’s availability for the weekend is up in the air after he withdrew from Ireland’s match against Wales to self-isolate when a team mate he was in close contact with tested positive.

“We have got a potential issue with one of our players. I can’t confirm or deny whether he will be available for the weekend, we’re still working with the authorities,” Wilder added.

“I have that view (that international games should be stopped)... I think the situation at the moment is pretty difficult for everybody.”

Reporting by Rohith Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Toby Davis