How Premier League, LaLiga and Serie A returns are shaping up

After the Bundesliga’s successful return, Europe’s plans are taking off… the Premier League could resume contact training this week while LaLiga and Serie A are aiming for mid-June restarts (and Turkey and Denmark are hoping to have fans in stadiums!)

  • The Bundesliga’s return to action earlier this month has shown Europe the way
  • Premier League is facing a decisive week in the future of Project Restart
  • LaLiga are hoping to restart on June 11 with the Seville derby televised
  • Serie A is expected to ratify its own return in a meeting this week
  • Sportsmail look at the state of play across the major leagues in Europe 

After the initial success of the Bundesliga’s return to competitive action in the last two weeks, leagues across Europe are accelerating their own restart plans.

LaLiga announced their intention to restart in mid-June while Serie A is expected to confirm its own resumption date later this week.

This week is also expected to see the Premier League firm up its own Project Restart protocols with contact training possibly by Friday.

The Premier League faces a crucial week as it aims to confirm its return next month

Raheem Sterling involved in a group training session at Manchester City’s Football Academy

West Ham’s Declan Rice has a temperature check as he arrives at the club’s training ground

With seasons in France, Holland, Belgium and Scotland already cancelled, the focus extends further afield.

Portugal’s league is set to return on June 3, Greece on the weekend of June 6-7 and Turkey on June 12, while Denmark’s season is set to resume this Thursday.

Here Sportsmail take a look at the state of play across Europe’s remaining major leagues… 

Premier League

The Premier League’s Project Restart will either hit major obstacles or edge even closer to completion this week as a number of crucial issues will be decided.

No return date has been decided by the league, while a number of players and managers have expressed their concerns.

There have also been a small number – just eight – positive tests across the Premier League in two rounds of checks. Those tests will continue in the coming week, with clubs receiving up to 80 tests to make sure that 40 players and staff can be checked two times a week.

The Premier League is hoping to step up to increased numbers in group training this week 

Managers and players will meet Premier League officials on Tuesday  to discuss the phase two protocols, which include a return to competitive and contact training.

A vote will be held on Wednesday over a return to contact training and there is a growing feeling that clubs will support it.

That will allow the division to move forward when it comes to planning the fixture list and a likely restart date – thought to be either June 19 or June 26 – as they will have an idea of when teams will carry out full training again.

This next stage would see groups increase to 12 with restricted contact, including tackling. It is likely that clubs will implement infrastructure to allow it on Thursday, so some teams might not train fully until Friday. 

LaLiga

Spain took a major step towards a mid-June return to action by allowing group training on Monday.

In the latest phase of the Spanish league’s moves towards a resumption of the season, clubs can train in groups of 14 this week, up from 10 last week, and Barcelona and Real Madrid stars were among those pictured doing so. 

The authorities in Spain are gradually lifting lockdown restrictions in a country where nearly 30,000 people have died with Covid-19.

Spain took a major step towards a mid-June return by allowing group training on Monday

Gareth Bale juggles the ball during Real Madrid’s training session on Monday morning 

Group training sessions with 14 players are the penultimate phase of the back-to-action process with full squad sessions expected to begin next week.

But this will depend on how the coronavirus pandemic progresses in the coming days. Five players in Spain’s top two divisions tested positive earlier this month.

‘We’ve gone through some very difficult and complicated moments during this pandemic and we don’t want to jump the gun,’ said LaLiga president Javier Tebas on Sunday.

Tebas said the league is expected to return with the derby match between Sevilla and Real Betis on Thursday June 11. All matches will be played without fans in attendance. 

Kick-off times will change to take into account the high temperatures of the Spanish summer. For example, the Seville derby will kick-off at 10pm local time (9pm UK).

‘Our plan for kickoff times during the week would be to play in the afternoon or evening, between 7.30-8 pm or 9.30-10 pm,’ he said. 

‘Over the weekend, there would be three slots: 5pm, 7.30pm, 9.30 or 10pm.’

Barcelona sit at the top of LaLiga, two points ahead of rivals Real Madrid with 11 games remaining. 

Serie A

Italy’s Serie A is close to confirming a return to action on either June 13 or 20, three months after the season was brought to a halt by the virus.

Italian Minister of Sport Vincenzo Spadafora confirmed decisions made regarding league competition will be ratified in a council meeting on May 28. 

The Italian Football Federation has decided teams in the country’s top three tiers must complete the 2019-20 season by August 20, with the 2020-21 campaign scheduled to begin on September 1.

Paulo Dybala arrives for training at Juventus wearing a face mask over his mouth and nose

Cristiano Ronaldo and his Juve team-mates could be back in action by mid-June

Teams returned to training earlier this month, with team training beginning just over a week ago. 

Earlier this month Fiorentina, Sampdoria and Torino all confirmed positive tests results to coronavirus, but there have been no new cases in the past fortnight. 

Serie A are looking at imposing a number of new rules to ensure the return is as safe as possible.

They include a ban on team photos and mascots, a mandatory eight-question form on COVID-19 symptoms for anyone attending games and a possible yellow card for spitting.

Denmark Superliga

Danish football bosses are planning to welcome back fans into their stadiums as their top flight prepares to resume on Thursday..

Although matches will initially be behind closed doors, preparations are being made for the Superliga to follow the lead of theatres and cinemas in the country, which will have capacity reduced to allow for social distancing between guests.

Bringing back supporters is some way down the agenda for the highest-profile European leagues yet in Denmark, they are looking at having crowds again in the near future.

Danish football bosses are planning to welcome back fans into their stadiums in near future

‘We would really like spectators back at stadiums,’ said Claus Thomsen, the chief executive of the Danish Football League. ‘By our assessment we are able to do it in line with how it will be handled in theme parks, theatres or cinemas.’

The League are to issue guidelines on how fans can attend matches while keeping a safe distance from others. Thomsen added: ‘Everything is separate. People won’t come into contact with each other at matches.’

Last month, Superliga leaders FC Midtjylland developed the idea of ‘drive-in’ football, which would involve two big screens showing the game to fans parked in 2,000 spaces. It would also allow up to 10,000 fans to tune into the TV commentary through their car radio.

Midtjylland marketing director Preben Rokkjaer said: ‘We have a stated goal of creating the best stadium experience. Coronavirus does not change that, it just provides some other preconditions.’

Midtjylland are 12 points clear the top of the table and are due to face AC Horsens on Monday in their first game back in action.

Portugal Primeira Liga

Top-flight football in Portugal is set to return in just a week’s time, with two matches scheduled for June 3, including Porto’s trip to FC Famalicao.

Last week nine stadiums passed inspections and were declared ready to host matches, with six more of the 18 in the division requiring improvements.

The government’s DCS health directorate wants the minimum possible number of stadiums used with 10 rounds of matches set to be played out from June 3 to the final day on July 26.

Benfica’s Nuno Tavares undergoes a test ahead of a training session earlier this month

Several clubs including Madeira-based Maritimo and Algarve outfit Portimonense have already complained about not being able to play at their home stadiums, but the league is set to press on regardless.

Unlike other leagues that plan on keeping the structure of a usual season with games played predominantly over the weekend, Portugal’s Primeira Liga will stagger games across most days of the week in order to fit the completion in before August.

Portugal has seen over 30,000 confirmed cases of the virus with 1,330 deaths confirmed by May 25. Players will be required to pass coronavirus tests twice a week.

Earlier this month three players at Vitoria Guimaraes tested positive and it was also reported that three players and two staff members at Famalicao had tested positive – though they did not confirm the results.  

The season has turned into a two-horse race between Porto, who lead with 60 points, and Benfica, who are one point behind.

The Segunda Division campaign has already been curtailed, with Nacional and Farense promoted to the top-flight.  

Greece Super League 

Greek Super League clubs agreed earlier this month to resume the play-offs on weekend of June 6-7.

Its return will come nearly three months after Olympiacos and Nottingham Forest owner Evangelos Marinakis tested positive for coronavirus – though all players returned negative results.

Clubs returned to socially-distanced training earlier this month before advancing through the protocol stages.

Olympiacos’ players tested negative back in March after their owner tested positive

Ten of the 14 teams in the league were in favour of continuing the league, including league leaders Olympiakos and third-placed AEK Athens.

PAOK Thessaloniki, Panathinaikos, Panetolikos and bottom-side Panionios were against resuming.

Greece has only 2,882 positive tests and 172 confirmed deaths from coronavirus as of May 25. 

Olympiacos lead the league with 66 points from 26 games with 10 games left to play in both the championship and relegation play-off divisions.  

Turkey Super Lig 

Football in Turkey’s top-flight is slated for a June 12 return, and there is even some optimism that an initial resumption behind closed doors will be opened up to fans by July.

But the league has returned positive cases as recently as last week, when BtcTurk Yeni Malatyaspor said that two people, including a player, had tested positive for the coronavirus. 

Earlier this month Besiktas announced that eight employees had tested positive.  There have also been positive cases at MKE Ankaragucu, Kasimpasa, Fenerbahce and Ankaragucu.

Earlier this month Besiktas announced that eight employees had tested positive

Besiktas have installed a gigantic disinfection cabinet at the entrance to their training ground

Sivasspor coach Riza Calimbay has described the touted return date as ‘wrong, very wrong’, and added: ‘The league was suspended when there were only a few cases, now they want to resume when there are thousands. I cannot understand why.’

Turkish FA president Nihat Ozdemir outlined his intentions over the restart earlier this month: ‘Our objective is to complete the campaign, otherwise there will be problems.

‘We want to complete the season on the pitch. Tests will be performed frequently during preparations.

‘If there are cases, we’ll quarantine them and continue on our way. There are countries about to restart where the situation is worse than ours.

‘Our first objective is to play without fans. If things go well, maybe we can play matches with fans in July.’




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Barcelona and Real Madrid stars train in groups of 14

Barcelona and Real Madrid stars train in groups of 14 as LaLiga takes another step towards restart with president Javier Tebas hopeful season will resume with Sevilla vs Real Betis derby on June 11 (with 10pm kick-offs amid summer heat)

  • LaLiga teams trained in groups of 14 on Monday as season nears restart
  • Barcelona and Real Madrid players ramped up preparations for the resumption
  • Spanish clubs expect a return to full training next week as lockdown lifts
  • Javier Tebas wants Sevilla vs Real Betis to be first game back on June 11 
  • Matches will have later kick-off times to take account of summer heat in Spain 

Barcelona and Real Madrid were among the Spanish clubs training in groups of 14 on Monday as LaLiga moved a step closer to a return.

In the latest phase of the Spanish league’s moves towards a resumption of the season, clubs can train in groups of 14 this week, up from 10 last week.

The two title challengers were hard at work on Monday morning as they continue to ramp up preparations ahead of a scheduled restart from June 11.

Lionel Messi (centre) and Barcelona team-mates train on Monday ahead of the season restart

Spanish clubs can now train in groups of 14 following further easing of lockdown restrictions

Real Madrid were also back on the training ground ahead of the season restart next month

The authorities in Spain are gradually lifting lockdown restrictions in a country where nearly 30,000 people have died with Covid-19.

Group training sessions with 14 players are the penultimate phase of the back-to-action process with full squad sessions expected to begin next week.

But this will depend on how the coronavirus pandemic progresses in the coming days.

‘We’ve gone through some very difficult and complicated moments during this pandemic and we don’t want to jump the gun,’ said LaLiga president Javier Tebas on Sunday.

Tebas said the league is expected to return with the derby match between Sevilla and Real Betis on Thursday June 11. All matches will be played without fans in attendance.

Gareth Bale juggles the ball during Real Madrid’s training session on Monday morning 

Barcelona manager Quique Setien wears a face mask as he watched his players train

He said such a high-profile game would be a good way to return to competition and ‘honour those who have lost their lives’ to the pandemic in Spain.

Tebas said: ‘It is possible that we make Thursday June 11. If not, it would be the 12th or the 13th. Fingers crossed it will be Thursday 11th at 10pm Spanish time.’

However, he cautioned it is impossible to guarantee the June 11 restart date because it depends on Covid-19 player and staff testing and how training progresses.

The restart will come three months after the Spanish league shut down with the full schedule for the remainder of the season due to be announced in early June.

Luka Modric on the ball as Real Madrid move closer to getting back to action in LaLiga

The aim is for Real Madrid and the rest of the league to be back in action by the middle of June

Antoine Griezmann and Frenkie de Jong in action during Monday’s training at Barcelona

Barcelona boss Setien wears a protective face mask as he takes training on Monday

Kick-off times will change to take into account the high temperatures of the Spanish summer. For example, the Seville derby will kick-off at 10pm local time (9pm UK).

‘Our plan for kickoff times during the week would be to play in the afternoon or evening, between 7.30-8 pm or 9.30-10 pm,’ he said. 

‘Over the weekend, there would be three slots: 5pm, 7.30pm, 9.30 or 10pm.’

Barcelona sit at the top of LaLiga, two points ahead of rivals Real Madrid with 11 games remaining. 

La Liga chief Javier Tebas says Seville derby could be the first game to kickstart the season




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Keane and Vieira were best of enemies and defined an era

Roy Keane and Patrick Vieira were the best of enemies and their rivalry defined both the Premier League and Manchester United vs Arsenal… from THAT tunnel bust-up to squaring up on the pitch at Highbury, we haven’t seen anything like it since

  • Roy Keane and Patrick Vieira clashed several times on and off the pitch
  • The midfielders were captains of two of the best sides in English football history
  • Their rivalry shaped the intense battle between Manchester United and Arsenal 

Every sport’s got one. In tennis it was Borg v McEnroe and in the world of boxing it was Ali against Frazier. 

In football, for a time, there was nothing quite as intense as Roy Keane and Patrick Vieira.  

You can forget about Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi as the biggest rivalry in football. Sure they’re the best two players in the world, with a competitive streak that has taken both to the summit.

Roy Keane (left) and Patrick Vieira (right) boasted one of the most intense on-pitch rivalries

https://youtube.com/watch?v=s4jWwEgGIVs%3Frel%3D0%26showinfo%3D1

Played: 19

Draws: 5

Vieira: 6

Keane: 8 

But in terms of sheer animosity, spectacle and downright theatre, there were few better sights than Keane and Vieira going at it, hammer and tongs.

Manchester United and Arsenal defined the Premier League. Keane and Vieira embodied that rivalry.

One was captain of the Treble winners, the other was captain of the Invincibles. 

They met 19 times in nine years as United  and Arsenal shared the Premier League trophy between them from 1996 to 2004.

In the 2013 documentary, ‘Keane and Vieira: Best of Enemies’, Keane described his relationship with Arsenal, simply, as hatred.

He called Vieira ‘tough’, who in turn called Keane ‘a leader, a winner. My favourite enemy, I loved every aspect of his game.’

The mutual respect between the two is obvious as they sit across from each other, regale about the old days and bemoan the modern game. 

That wasn’t always the case. As opposite numbers in midfield and captains of the best two teams in England they went to war when they locked horns on the pitch.

The two captains pursued each other relentlessly on the pitch and knew they were in ‘wars’ 


Both captains enjoyed huge success and their rivalry epitomised the two clubs’ long rivalry

The pair hold a mutual respect having since worked together in a media-based capacity

MAJOR HONOURS 

Keane at Man United

Premier League x 7

FA Cup x 4

Champions League x 1

Intercontinental Cup x 1

Vieira at Arsenal 

Premier League x 3 

FA Cup x 3 

Quite often that antipathy spilled over, a natural consequence of the heated, intense rivalry between the two teams.

In 1999, Arsenal and United were the two biggest teams in the land by a country mile. The Gunners had been double winners 12 months previously, and United were now Treble winners. 

Only one point separated them in the final standings of 1998-99, and only a Ryan Giggs solo wonder goal settled a titanic FA Cup semi-final replay at Villa Park that April. Those were the fine margins between United’s Treble, and a trophyless campaign for Arsenal.

Locked at 1-1 in the final five minutes of an early-season clash at Highbury, Vieira and Keane tussled for a loose ball and both left one in on the other – with interest. 

Such were the pressure levels that the match boiled over six minutes from the end, as Keane and Patrick Vieira clashed, prompting a face-off between the two sides which the referee did well to defuse.

Vieira dispossessed David Beckham and then the 50-50 challenge saw Keane win the ball and hook into the Arsenal box. 

Vieira felt that Keane’s biggest weakness was that he could prove ‘reckless’ on occasion

For Keane (right), he felt Vieira’s biggest weakness was that he simply was not as tough as him

But an onrushing Vieira was unwilling to concede position as he charged into his adversary. A kick-out later and the two were ready to come to blows after Vieira swung at Keane and the United midfielder grabbed his rival’s neck. 

Had the referee not caught it in the corner of his eye, a 22-man brawl could have broken out. This was not uncommon when Keane and Vieira locked horns, admittedly.  

Jaap Stam charged over as support for Keane and before you know it, the Dutchman was nose-to-nose with Vieira following some choice words.  

In the documentary, Vieira is asked if he ever felt intimidated by Keane, to which he said, ‘no, he excites me’. It was a hatred and a rivalry the two leaders came to relish. 

They both possessed an insatiable appetite to defeat the other.  

Speaking on Sky Sports’ Monday Night Football ahead of another clash between both sides last year, Keane admitted that the games back in his day were always wars and that Vieira was indeed one of his toughest opponents.

‘I always felt I was going to war with these boys anyway so I’d be feeling the aches and pains before the match, I wouldn’t mind afterwards, but that’s what you play the game for. 

A defining moment for the pair came in 2005 in the tunnel of Arsenal’s old Highbury stadium

Referee Graham Poll tried to diffuse the situation before kick-off as an argument broke out

https://youtube.com/watch?v=NKj8msoEKEo%3Frel%3D0%26showinfo%3D1

MATCH FACTS FROM HIGHBURY 2005

Arsenal: Almunia; Lauren (Fabregas 83), Campbell (Hoyte 79), Cygan, Cole; Ljungberg, Flamini (Reyes 70), Vieira, Pires; Bergkamp, Henry.

Goals: Vieira (8), Bergkamp (36)

Booked: Pires, Reyes 

Manager: Arsene Wenger

Manchester United: Carroll; G. Neville, Ferdinand, Silvestre, Heinze; Fletcher (O’Shea 61), Keane, Scholes; Ronaldo (Brown 70), Giggs (Saha 77), Rooney.

Goals: Cole OG (18), Ronaldo (54, 58), O’Shea (88) 

Booked: Heinze, Ronaldo, Giggs, Rooney 

Sent off: Silvestre 

Manager: Sir Alex Ferguson 

‘Patrick would have been (my toughest opponent) at the time. As I said Patrick would challenge you in different ways, he could get around the pitch, he was good with the ball, he was strong, he had a goal in him.

‘I knew I would have to be at my very very best to be on top of Patrick.’

For all the grappling in the middle of the park, the late tackles, the choice words exchanged, no moment encapsulated Keane and Vieira’s rivalry quite like the infamous tunnel spat at Highbury in 2005.  

The tunnel at the old Highbury was a tight squeeze at the best of times but when players and teams hated each other as much as Arsenal and United did, fireworks were inevitable – it was just about who would land the first blow. 

With players shoulder-to-shoulder, a confrontation breaks out at the back and referee Graham Poll attempts to navigate through the bodies to break it up, as Pascal Cygan guides Vieira away to the front of the tunnel.

Mikael Silvestre, who was in the United team that day, shed light on how the Arsenal captain got under Keane’s skin before the game had even kicked off.

‘It’s a small tunnel,’ he said. ‘So players are almost like shoulder against shoulder. And I think Patrick went past Gary (Neville), and he said, “You stop talking. You have a big mouth when you are with your team. So I want to take you on one v one. Outside. Me and you”.

‘So Roy Keane, as a good captain, defended Gary. He said, “You want to take on my player? Take it up to me.” There was also some French vocabulary within the conversation as well…’

The two players possessed a warrior-like mentality and felt they needed to defend team-mates

A lot more than what has been quoted above was said as Keane was not done. He knocked everyone else out of the way to get to Vieira, pointing angrily in his face.

‘We’ll see you out there, we’ll see you out there,’ Keane says. ‘Every week. Shut your mouth off. Every week you. Making it out like you’re a nice guy. He started it and needs to shut his f****** mouth up.’ 

‘I just felt they were bullying Gary,’ Keane later surmised in his book The Second Half. ‘I don’t think it was intimidation; it was bullying.’

‘I was there to do a job. Win the game – get in and get out. But it was a bit like the build-up to a boxing match – the weigh-in, the press conferences – when people forget that there’ll actually be a fight.’

The match had been lit for both sides and while the tunnel incident is the defining moment of the day, the game itself is often forgotten despite Keane’s United going on to win 4-2. 

Vieira headed Arsenal in front before an Ashley Cole own goal pegged them back. Dennis Bergkamp restored the hosts’ lead and that was when the switch flicked in Sir Alex Ferguson’s side. 

There has not been a player rivalry since in the Premier League that bettered Keane and Vieira

A brace from Cristiano Ronaldo and a late goal from John O’Shea sealed a famous win over the enemy for Keane and Co. He said he would see to them ‘out there’ and he did.  

‘I started it, I was cool, I was really calm, I was smiling at him and then he lost it,’ Vieira said in the documentary.   

Vieira admitted he started it with a smirk on his face. There was no smirk on the face of either player as tensions bounced off the walls of the tunnel. 

And it has gone on to be a microcosm of their relationship since. It has stood the test of time.

Quite frankly, it is the type of relationship that has not been bettered since. For as much as some players actively dislike others, no one can put forward a convincing case that it is more potent, more personal or more important than Keane v Vieira.  




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Sean Dyche says he and his Burnley players are raring to go

‘Fitness? I’m not bothered. Let’s just crack on…we’re all in the same boat’: Sean Dyche admits football’s return isn’t ideal but he says he and his Burnley players are raring to go

  • Sean Dyche says he isn’t bothered about player fitness when football returns 
  • The Burnley boss said every club is in the same boat in terms of time frames 
  • Dyche claimed individuals must decide whether it’s right for them to return

In these strange and complicated times, some things remain simple. It was, for example, after the very briefest of meetings that the players of Burnley Football Club decided to come back to work.

Burnley manager Sean Dyche told Sportsmail: ‘We had a video conference call a couple of weeks ago and I just asked them what they were feeling. They said they were ready. All of them. I didn’t tell them my view. I just said, “What are your thoughts lads?”

‘A couple asked simple questions — simple enough for me to answer — and I said we would catch up in 24 hours and that anyone could talk to me or the doctor away from the group in the meantime.

Burnley manager Sean Dyche asked his players how they felt about returning to training

‘But they just said, “No, we are all fine”. So that was it. We are ready to play.’

As the Premier League edges towards a resumption, the voices of the dissenters have been shrill. 

Watford manager Nigel Pearson talked last week about the possibility of fatalities and suggested football was ‘closing its eyes to the threat’ of Covid-19. Newcastle’s Danny Rose has suggested footballers are being treated like ‘lab rats’.

Dyche’s view is a little more understated. He has read and digested the scientific advice from the Government and the Premier League and has chosen to trust it. More importantly, he has been guided by his players.

Dyche said his players were fine to return and were ready to get back to playing football

‘I feel for the people out there who don’t lead the life I lead,’ he said. ‘Those who are in apartments and don’t have a garden. That must be a challenge.

‘I am not going to start crying about my challenge or a young footballer’s circumstances. You try to respect each player’s opinion.

‘All I can imagine is that if a player has decided returning is not for him then I presume he is sitting in the house every day, not going out. Because if they are not just staying in then the obvious question would be, “If you feel OK (safe) to go out then why are you not training?”

‘That is the balance for clubs. Some players will have very valid personal reasons for not playing and some will be questioned. That’s for each club to decide. That hasn’t happened at our club.

‘If our players are clear-minded then we get on with it and if they are not, I would expect them to come and see me and I would try to work a way through it. There is no right or wrong on this. It’s for each individual to decide what is best for him.’

The manager said he presumes players not wanting to return won’t be leaving their homes

Burnley’s players have been back in since Tuesday, working in ‘pods’ of five with a coach assigned to each. Under current guidelines, there is to be no mixing of groups so Dyche himself, for example, can only observe one pod.

News that his assistant and friend of 30 years Ian Woan was diagnosed with the virus in midweek was unexpected.

‘Yeah, that’s strange as he has absolutely no symptoms,’ Dyche said. ‘We have temperature and wellness checks at the gate here every day before you get in and there was no issue.

‘But then we got the results of our tests. So he has been frustrated and now we are without him for at least seven days. But the main thing is that he’s OK.’

One manager in the Championship said privately this week that one of the daily challenges is to stop players hugging and shaking hands. It is part of the modern player’s daily ritual.

Dyche laughed: ‘Well, maybe we are not quite as tactile at Burnley but we have reminded them about their distancing and our structured sessions play to that.

Dyche’s assistant Ian Woan tested positive for the virus this week despite having no symptoms

‘Ironically we are keeping them apart at a time when the general message from the Government may soon be that small groups can mix. The greater challenge is that we can’t debrief or plan as we are with our own pods.

‘That’s a bit weird. When you can’t interact it’s a nuisance but we will get on with it. The players understand. It’s not as though this has been hidden. It’s been all over the news and if you don’t get it there must be something wrong.’

With the Premier League working towards restarting in mid-June, managers such as Newcastle’s Steve Bruce have suggested it might be too early in terms of fitness. Manchester City’s Raheem Sterling has agreed. Dyche said: ‘I am not bothered. We will get on with it. We are professional athletes and if that’s the challenge then that’s the challenge. I am not going to change the Premier League’s mind on the dates am I?

‘These are exceptional times. There are people far worse off out there in other businesses than we are in football. If we are not as good or fit as we would normally be then at least everybody is in the same boat.’

They say that players, even in the modern age, don’t miss a word their manager says in public. With that in mind, Dyche’s message is clear and during the break in the season Burnley have also shown the way forward.

The club’s commitment to their foodbank scheme has been ramped up and Burnley — one of the Premier League’s smallest outfits — have not furloughed staff.

‘We get criticised for not spending (on players),’ said Dyche. ‘Sometimes it’s valid and sometimes not. I have said myself we have to stretch the thinking of the club financially.

‘But the balance to that is that when a challenge like this comes, there are no financial problems. Everything is paid for and we can have a very good impact on the community and town.

‘The players back that up as well. Other clubs do it too but we are such a big part of a town of 78,000 people. We are a club that tries to help our people out.’

The 48-year-old said he was not bothered about player fitness after months without matches

Sadly, Burnley’s fans will not be able to repay the favour for a while given that football will return behind closed doors. Dyche does not underplay the significance of that.

‘You can’t deny that the crowd is part of the theatre of football and that players feed off it,’ he said. ‘It’s like a pre-season or reserve-game feel. But the players aren’t daft. They know that most games will be on TV. They will want to perform.’

Perhaps a little romantically, Dyche hopes football stadiums will be better places when the turnstiles are opened again.

‘Sometimes you go in stadiums and it’s on the edge of being really nasty and I hope now that when people go back in they will realise they are going there for a good reason,’ he said. ‘I hope people think, “I’d forgotten how much I missed football so now it’s back I can go with a more relaxed feeling and be happy to be back”.

‘I want fans to get involved as that brings the fervour and drama to the stadium but maybe this will take the edge off. I will be getting my share of stick again and I have my own gripes about football. But when it goes away I miss it. I have missed it during this period that’s for sure.’

Dyche has spent lockdown at home in the Midlands with his wife and two teenage sons. ‘I have spent a lot of quality time and I have enjoyed that,’ he said. ‘Bike rides, chatting.

The club have not furloughed staff and have kept up their commitment to its foodbank scheme

‘The boys are forming opinions about what is going on and I like that. I am on the road a lot so it’s been good to stop moving for once and spend that time.

‘I did about 10 days of jet- washing. A simple task to concentrate on, just to keep your mind off everything. But after eight weeks of virtual retirement, I am definitely not ready for that!’

Dyche is in his eighth season at Turf Moor and a run of four wins and three draws prior to the interruption has Burnley well-placed to attempt another top-half finish.

They are 10th, a point behind Arsenal and two behind Tottenham. Annual progress presents familiar challenges, though, and the 48-year-old doesn’t hide from that.

‘The idea of stepping forward at Burnley is difficult,’ he explained. ‘The finances are highly unlikely to change radically whatever happens this season. We develop players well but at some stage you do have to support those players with others you bring in. So it’s always a challenge.

The coach said he has enjoyed being able to spend extra time with his family during the break

‘We are not in a position to guarantee what happens next season or beyond because it’s just not like that. Every season is a big season for us. It’s small steps at Burnley, never big strides.’

As Dyche spoke, he was preparing to return to the flat in Lancashire he uses during the working week. It’s been a while. ‘I’ve been watching The Last Dance (about Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls) on Netflix and will watch the final episode in my flat tonight,’ he said. ‘I am back in for the first time for eight weeks so I am on cleaning duty later.

‘The flash world of Premier League management, eh? Football is back and I am cleaning my flat. It will take some doing, trust me.

‘We don’t live in a grandiose world here. There is no cleaner. I don’t even have a PA so I am not worried about cleaning a flat. I think I am capable, let’s put it that way.’




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The inspirational – and tragic – story of Steve Kerr

His father was murdered by jihadi gunmen and after he stood up to Michael Jordan (and got a punch in the face), he changed basketball history…The incredible story of Steve Kerr, an unlikely star of The Last Dance on Netflix

  • Steve Kerr’s story was a brilliant tale to emerge from Netflix’s ‘The Last Dance’
  • Not highly recruited as a youngster, he was ‘an overachiever’ who excelled 
  • He hit big shots, such as the 1997 Finals winner, and was the ultimate role player 
  • Since retiring, he has revolutionised the game as Golden State Warriors coach
  • Comparisons to Pep Guardiola are apt given their impact on respective sports 

For many, Netflix’s ‘The Last Dance’ series highlighted the greatness of Michael Jordan, showed his win-at-all costs mentality and his flawless NBA Finals record of six wins from six visits.  

But for Steve Kerr, he got a front row seat for the action as a team-mate during the Chicago Bulls’ second three-peat from 1996 to 1998. He saw one of sport’s great dynasties unfold in front of his very eyes – and used that to build one of his own as a coach. 

And yet while the focus was on Jordan for much of the 10-part series, a look at his gambling, the murder of his father James and stand-out moments like the famous ‘Flu Game’ in Utah, it was Kerr’s own story – both tragic and inspiring – that perhaps stood out most to those unfamiliar with the Bulls’ dynasty.  

Steve Kerr (left) emerged as the people’s champion from Michael Jordan’s ‘Last Dance’ series

The defining play of Kerr’s Chicago Bulls career came with a late shot to win the 1997 Finals

It was no coincidence that social media was awash with messages of Kerr jerseys from that three-peat era shooting up in demand on Monday and people anointing the 54-year-old as their new favourite player after watching the series finale.  

Kerr was not a Hall of Fame player, he was smaller than a lot of his team-mates and opponents and was never the first or second best player on a team in his 15 years in the NBA.

And yet coming away from ‘The Last Dance’, Kerr stood out. He was personable, relatable and had managed to carve out a niche for himself as the ultimate role player for Jordan in Chicago. He accepted his status, learned how to win with just ‘five or six shots’ per game and became what he himself termed an ‘overachiever’. 

That assessment may be a tad harsh on himself but further highlighted the selflessness that Kerr has carried forward into his coaching.

Kerr remains the only NBA player in the last 50 years to lift the Larry O’Brien Championship trophy in four straight seasons, following up his three-peat with the Bulls under Phil Jackson with the 1999 title under Gregg Popovich at the San Antonio Spurs.  

In the game today, Kerr is respected as a fine player in his day but all the documentary did was remind the masses – in the US alone episodes generated viewing figures of almost 13 million per week – of his immense value. 

Nothing has come easy for Kerr, on or off the court. His father Malcolm was brutally murdered in Lebanon, while serving as the president of the American University of Beirut when Kerr was just 19.  

Kerr (right) was not highly recruited as a teenager and described himself as an ‘overachiever’

STEVE KERR CAREER 

PLAYER

1988-89 – Phoenix Suns

1989-92 – Cleveland Cavaliers

1992-93 – Orlando Magic

1993-98 – Chicago Bulls

1998-2001 – San Antonio Spurs

2001-02 – Portland Trail Blazers

2002-03 – San Antonio Spurs 

COACH 

2014-PRESENT – Golden State Warriors

HONOURS 

8 x NBA champion (1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2003, 2015, 2017, 2018) 

1997 NBA 3-point champion 

2016 NBA coach of the year 

Kerr was born in Beirut and spent much of his childhood there. It was particularly dangerous for American citizens at the time amid ongoing conflict in the Middle East, and episode nine of ‘The Last Dance’ saw Kerr emotionally reflect on how he discovered the tragic news that two gunmen, who were members of the Shia Lebanese militia called Islamic Jihad but posing as students, shot his dad in the head on January 18, 1984. 

It is not something he opens up on often, making his candidness and openness in the Netflix series about receiving a call in the middle of the night while at college in Arizona particularly striking.  

He ‘threw himself into basketball’ as he grieved, his mother said in episode nine,  and he became fiercely determined to make it in the NBA despite the limited hype around him. 

His dad was a big basketball fan at UCLA (University of California, Los Angeles) and so Kerr’s motivation was set. Despite the prospect of playing alongside one of the greatest to ever play the game wholly remote in 1984, when barely anyone tried to recruit him, Kerr was not giving up. 

That fighting spirit translated well to viewers and while Kerr appeared mild-mannered, it was a famous bust-up with Jordan that ultimately secured respect from his team-mate. 

One particular practice work-out became heated as Jordan goaded Kerr and eventually he snapped back, punching him in the chest, much to the surprise of Jordan. 

Jordan responded by punching him in the face, something he later apologised for, but for Kerr, it was one of the best things to happen to his career. From then on he had respect and he was trusted to go into battle. 


Kerr mastered the art of being a role player and is the only player in the NBA in the last 50 years to win four consecutive championships – three with the Chicago Bulls and one win San Antonio

Jordan was demanding of team-mates but Kerr stood up to him, got punched in a practice session and from that point on he had earned his stripes and got Jordan’s respect

That trust was never better encapsulated than Game 6 of the 1997 NBA Finals against Karl Malone and the Utah Jazz. 

Jackson called a time-out with the score tied at 86-86 and with 28 seconds left on the clock, a play was to be drawn up to try and clinch the game and avoid a Game 7. 

In those game-closing moments it was typically Jordan who took the limelight. He was the best player and could do things others would never be able to pull off. And yet, he knew the Jazz were going to double-team him, meaning the play had to be for someone else. 

Scottie Pippen was the team’s second best player but while Jordan was sat down for the time-out, he turned to Kerr and urged him to ‘be ready, this is your moment’. It was Kerr’s time to win it all. 

‘I’ll be ready,’ Kerr shot back like a hyperactive child. ‘I’ll be ready.’

What happened next became one of the defining plays of Kerr’s entire career. 

Pippen stood tall from the inbound to find Jordan outside the arc and, as expected, he was met with a double-team from Bryon Russell and John Stockton, who was supposed to be on Kerr. 

At San Antonio, Kerr (right) worked under legendary coach Gregg Popovich and along with working under Phil Jackson in Chicago, Kerr had honed his ability to be an elite NBA coach

He took over the Golden State Warriors in 2014 and transformed stars like Stephen Curry (left)

Jordan broke between the double-team before kicking it out to Kerr who was wide open from 17-feet away. He caught, rising in his shooting motion, and sank the shot with ease. Jordan had told Kerr that it was his moment and he was right. A late dunk from Toni Kukoc sealed the win but it was Kerr’s jumper that sealed the Bulls’ fifth championship. He was the hero. 

That moment of trust has always stayed with Kerr, and Jordan’s willingness to defer in big moments to team-mates, and he used it as Golden State Warriors’ coach in a conversation with star man Kevin Durant.

Durant is one of the best players in the NBA right now and yet during a time-out Kerr cited Jordan and wanted his main man to do similar in ‘trusting’ the role guys, the Warriors’ own versions of Kerr. 

‘When MJ was with the Bulls, we had a play-off game,’ Kerr began to Durant. ‘He just kept trying to score and he was scoring but we weren’t getting anything going. Phil Jackson said “who’s open?”. John Paxson was. 

‘I want you to trust your team-mates early. What you’re doing is getting to the rim then trying to kick out. I want you to trust the first guy.’  

But it is not just Jordan anecdotes and pep talks with star players that have made Kerr an all-time top five NBA coach. What he has done can be compared to Pep Guardiola in football in revolutionising his sport. 

In one famous exchange with Kevin Durant, Kerr uses a Jordan analogy to get the Warriors forward to trust his team-mates, just like Jordan had done with Kerr in Utah back in 1997

Durant helped form part of a dynasty with the Warriors and Kerr is considered a top-five coach

Guardiola’s tiki-taka style turned Barcelona into one of football’s greatest ever teams from 2008-12 and he has since transformed Manchester City into one of the most attractive sides in the world.  

On the other hand, Kerr, with his work on three-point emphasis, building a dynasty of young stars from inherited draft picks and taking away the reliance of a dominant center, will go down as a revolutionary for those that follow him. 

In Jackson and Popovich, Kerr got to work under two others that rank in the top five of all-time and, along with his self-improvement as a player, his grief is something he has been able to channel into coaching thanks to his former coaches’ influence. 

‘I really realised from [Popovich] and [Jackson] that I could use my experience as a kid and growing up to my advantage as a coach,’ Kerr told the New York Times in 2016. 

‘And connect with players and try to keep that healthy perspective. Keep it fun, and don’t take it too seriously.’

As Kerr, 54, stands before basketball fans now, here is a man with eight championship rings. He is far more than the role player loved by Bulls fans in the Jordan era.  

There are cross-sport similarities between Kerr and Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola

Kerr has revolutionised the NBA like Guardiola has football and deserves immense credit

Kerr turned Steph Curry into the first ever unanimous NBA MVP (most valuable player) in 2016. He formed the ‘splash brothers’ with Curry and Klay Thompson and they have put themselves into the position of being the greatest shooting back-court in the history of basketball.  

But while there have been stars such as Curry, Thompson, Durant and Draymond Green, he has also made players such as 2015 draft pick Kevon Looney a key role piece – nobody is better than Kerr for mastering such a role.   

He took charge in 2014, got his feet under the table having been a general manager prior with the Phoenix Suns, and within a year he was back lifting the Larry O’Brien trophy. 

In fact, the success was unrelenting, under Kerr the Warriors have had five straight trips to the NBA Finals, winning three and losing one to LeBron James’ Cavaliers in 2016 as well as last year, when injury struck down Thompson and Durant against the Toronto Raptors. 

Kerr is an intellect who has carried on his dad’s legacy in speaking out for activists on political issues. But much of his story comes down to ‘being ready’. He was ready that night in Utah in 1997, was ready in his debut season with the Spurs in 1999 and was ready when he took over the Warriors in 2014. 

He may have spoken highly about Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp in the past but if Kerr steps into the light with anyone from football, being the Guardiola of the NBA fits best.  

The Warriors won their first championships since 1975 once Kerr took over as head coach




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Holmes says Tyson and Holyfield should 'go ahead' with trilogy fight

Former heavyweight champion Larry Holmes says Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield should ‘GO AHEAD’ with shock comeback trilogy fight

  • Mike Tyson has been teasing a comeback with a number of training videos 
  • Shannon Briggs says Tyson’s comeback fight against him is now ‘official’ 
  • But the big speculation has been about a third fight against Evander Holyfield
  • Iron Mike lost twice against Holyfield in the mid-1990s but could face him again 

Larry Holmes believes Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield should renew their rivalry in the ring if both feel capable of a comeback. 

Tyson, 53, has posted numerous videos of intense workouts in recent weeks, and a comeback fight has been announced by fellow veteran Shannon Briggs, 48, who says he will face Iron Mike. 

However Tyson, who retired in 2005, has been continually linked with a stunning trilogy fight against 57-year-old Holyfield – who has also been in training – and former heavyweight champion Holmes says the winner of a fight could land a bout against a current top-10 heavyweight.

Mike Tyson has been posting intense videos of training in the ring over the past few weeks

Evander Holyfield has also been in training with an exhibition bout reportedly on the cards 

Former heavyweight champion Larry Holmes has no problem with Tyson vs Holyfield part III

‘If these guys want to do it, I’d say go ahead and do it, I’m not going to say don’t do it,’ said Holmes, who was speaking on behalf of media company Trcksuits.

‘They get a chance to show what they got and if they look good enough, they’re probably going to get an opportunity to fight somebody in the top 10 [heavyweights].’

In the mid-1990s, Holyfield stopped Tyson in the eleventh round in 1996 whilst Tyson was disqualified from their rematch a year later for infamously biting Holyfield’s ear and was subsequently disqualified. 

Should a trilogy fight come together, Holmes believes Holyfield would have the advantage due to those fights over 20 years ago. 

Tyson infamously bites Holyfield’s ear during the pair’s second fight in June 1997 in Las Vegas

‘Evander Holyfield is a good fight for Mike Tyson, but it’s also a bad fight because Holyfield knows him,’ Holmes said.

‘He fought him, beat him up. So Mike Tyson would have to worry about that, he’s going to worry about it.

‘It will be in his mind, ‘Holyfield can hit me with this, that, this’. He will try to be careful and that might hurt him.’   

Meanwhile, Briggs said in a Instagram live chat with a fan that a fight against Tyson was on the cards.

Former heavyweight champion Shannon Briggs says a fight against Mike Tyson is ‘official’ 

‘I just talked to Mike Tyson, it’s going down, me and Mike, we’re going to make it happen,’ Briggs said.

‘It’s official, you’re going to see it happen, Brownsville versus Brownsville. Me and Tyson are going to lace up the gloves.

‘We’re going to rumble, rumble in the jungle. We’re going to let our fist do the talking.’ 

Briggs, who has not fought himself since 2016, added that the fight will be an exhibition bout for charity. 

Iron Mike looks set to face Briggs in his first fight in 15 years in an exhibition fight for charity 

He said: ‘The money is there, the money is almost there, I can’t say much more, I’ll leave it at that.

‘This is for charity, this is exhibition, I want people to understand. We all know it’s an exhibition and then we will see what’s left in the tank.

‘It’s for charity, it will be fun, but this is Mike Tyson we are talking about. He naturally hits hard, so he might hit me and he might break my rib. We have to be fully prepared.’




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Real want Haaland and Mbappe to join Eden Hazard in 2021

Real Madrid want Erling Haaland and Kylian Mbappe to join Eden Hazard in 2021 and form ‘new dream attacking trio’ at the Bernabeu

  • Karim Benzema, Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo dominated at Real Madrid 
  • Club have struggled to replicate same success since Ronaldo’s departure 
  • They are planning to form the new trio of attacking talent at the Bernabeu 
  • Kylian Mbappe and Erling Haaland are both targets and could join club in 2021 

Real Madrid are plotting moves for Erling Haaland and Kylian Mbappe to form ‘the new dream attacking trio of the Bernabeu’ alongside Eden Hazard in 2021. 

Zinedine Zidane’s side are chasing the top talent in Europe in a bid to construct the most dangerous strikeforce in the game.  

According to AS, if Real’s expectations are met, then both the PSG and Borussia Dortmund stars could arrive next summer. 

AS report that Real Madrid want the ‘Trident of the new Bernabeu’ with two new signings

Kylian Mbappe’s PSG deal expires in 2022 so the French club may be tempted by an offer

One piece of the puzzle was already added when Hazard joined from Chelsea on a five-year deal for £80million last year. 

Mbappe is already established as one of the most deadly forwards in football and Haaland has been a revelation since joining Borussia Dortmund from RB Salzburg in January. 

The Spanish publication report that Zinedine Zidane would deploy Mbappe on the right, Hazard on the left and Haaland playing through the middle. 

Mbappe’s PSG contract expires in the summer of 2022 so PSG might be tempted to cash in next summer if he refuses to sign fresh terms. 

Haaland has a release clause of £65m in his Dortmund contract, which now looks a snip given the way he’s started in the Bundesliga, scoring in the return to action against Schalke on Saturday to make it 12 goals in 13 games for the club.

Real have been searching for the perfect combination in the attacking third since Cristiano Ronaldo departed for Juventus.

He formed a lethal triumvirate with Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale and they fired Real to three Champions League victories in succession between 2015-18. 

Eden Hazard would play on the left flank with Haaland in the middle and Mbappe on the right

Mbappe, Haaland and Hazard would blend a mixture of youth and experience, though members of Real’s current squad could yet stake a claim for a role. 

Brazilian duo Vinícius Júnior and Rodrygo are both emerging talents but yet to fully establish themselves and Hazard himself still has something to prove in the Spanish capital after a slow start at the club. 

Real will inevitably face competition for their transfer targets with Mbappe and Haaland on the radar of every top side in Europe. 

And much will depend on the transfer landscape after the coronavirus crisis given the damaging financial impact across the continent.  




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Heatcheck: Ovie Soko and Mo Mooncey debate the NBA's best all-time coaches

Does winning 10 NBA championships make Phil Jackson the greatest coach in NBA history? Heatcheck’s Ovie Soko and Mo Mooncey share their thoughts.


NBA Heatcheck


NBA Retro Games: NBA Finals Game 5-Bulls/Lakers 1991

With Netflix documentary The Last Dance approaching its final two episodes, Jackson’s success with the Chicago Bulls alongside Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen has been a major topic of discussion as NBA fans wait for the 2019-20 season to resume.

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Cancelled autumn and Six Nations Tests could cost WRU £50m of revenue

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The Welsh Rugby Union could lose £50m of revenue if it does not host autumn internationals and Six Nations games, chief executive Martyn Phillips says.

Rugby has not been played since March because of the coronavirus crisis.

Wales are scheduled to host seven Test matches from October 2020 to March 2021 – four autumn internationals and a possible three Six Nations games.

“If we did not play any autumn or Six Nations, you probably would be looking at £50m of lost revenue,” he said.

  • Pro14 decision needed with a month, says Phillips
  • Wales could revert to club system – Davies

Rugby Football Union boss Bill Sweeney said it will have revenue losses of £107m if the 2020 autumn internationals are cancelled because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The WRU’s group income in the 2018-19 financial year was £90.5m – with half of that, £44,5m, coming from Principality Stadium match income.

Hospitality and catering at those games and other events staged at the stadium provided an extra £14m.

Wales could host Scotland in a rearranged 2020 Six Nations match in October and face Fiji, Argentina, New Zealand and South Africa in November. Ireland and England are scheduled to visit Cardiff in the 2021 Six Nations matches.

“It is always difficult to predict individual games but when you see the annual report you see the reliance of international matches,” said Phillips.

“We are less reliant on international income than the RFU but it is still the lions share of your business.

“Events are probably a bigger part of the mix for us because of the roof and it’s something we’ve built up over a number of years.

“It’s possible that will come back next year but the big swing factor here will be the Six Nations. That’s such a big part of our income.”

Autumn crowds ‘unlikely’

World Rugby has released its ‘return to play’ Covid-19 guidelines this week but has not stated if matches will have to be played behind closed doors until a vaccine is available.

This strategy will be determined by individual national legislation but Phillips admits it is unlikely Wales will be playing in front of a crowd this year.

Each home international traditionally provides a minimum of £4m in ticket sales alone.

“My expectation is it’s unlikely we will play in front of a crowd in the autumn,” said Phillips.

“If we can get the games on in some form, that would be great, but I’m expecting it to be behind closed doors.

“We are nervous about the autumn and you want to be playing those games if you could, but as every week goes by we make inroads into how we come out the other side of that.

“If you start then going into the Six Nations – and if those games either don’t go ahead or don’t play in front of a crowd – it becomes extraordinarily difficult to see your way through.

“We have six to eight months to do something about it and that is what we working towards.

“I just then hope in eight to 10 months’ time, we will back playing those games in front of some form of a crowd at least.”

Phillips admits if there was no international rugby until the summer of 2021, the WRU could seek support from the Welsh government.

“It’s the obvious place to go,” said Phillips. “If there are no events in the stadium it’s more than a ripple effect out into the south Wales economy.

“My first port of call is always self-help. Our job is to deal with what is thrown at us, but like any organisation it can be taken beyond the point where you can deal with it yourself.

“So the ramifications would be far beyond rugby if, for example, the Six Nations doesn’t happen.”

The Principality Stadium has been turned into a field hospital and Phillips has said even if the venue was available for internationals behind closed doors, the WRU could switch games to other venues if there would be no spectators.

“Realistically you’d probably try to keep it within rugby, the regional venues would be the obvious choice,” said Phillips.

“You could potentially look at the football grounds but there’ll be a backlog of football to be played.

“We could do it within the stadium, that still has the potential. It boils down to the quality of the pitch and the off-field facilities, playing and broadcasting. The regional grounds cater for that anyway and it’s a few months away.

“North Wales is one we’ve talked about dependent on the number of games.

“If you had supporters there we’d consider it but if it’s behind closed doors it’s probably not an awful lot of value, you’d favour the south from a convenience point of view.”

Wales’ summer tour of Japan and New Zealand, scheduled for June and July, has yet to be officially called off but is unlikely to go ahead.

Phillips outlined the expected chain of events which starts with the expected government announcement on Sunday as to how lockdown rules might be relaxed.

“Like most of the country, we’re waiting for Sunday and the meat on the bone from the government [on easing lock-down],” said Phillips.

“I am expecting rugby to be at the back end of the return to sport.

“The July tour announcement I would think would be imminent and with the autumn there are three factors.

“Who the opposition is, playing behind closed doors or not and whether the games simply don’t go ahead.”

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Nasser Hussain and David Lloyd answer your teasers

Ask Nasser and Bumble: Luckiest innings you’ve ever seen? One rule you’d change? Nasser Hussain and David Lloyd answer your teasers

  • Nasser had a lucky five or six bats during his career with Essex and England
  • Joe Root plays the game with a smile on his face and is easy on the eye
  • Jos Buttler should be given three or four games when Test cricket starts again 
  • Follow @asknasserbumble on twitter to leave your questions or email [email protected]

How many bats did you use in a year? Was there a lucky one?

Nasser: I had a lucky five or six in my career — it was the one that was getting me runs at the time. But by the end of my career I was an absolute fruit loop with my bats. I would play with the handles and take Gray-Nicolls bats down the road from me to Warsop to get weight taken off them and make adjustments to the handle etc.

Even though I would throw my bat at times when I was out I did try to look after them when I found one I was happy with.

Nasser Hussain had a lucky five or six bats during his career with Essex and England

Bumble: When I started we bought two bats for four pounds, 11 shillings and I’ve still got the bill somewhere. Goodness, you looked after them because you didn’t want to spend another four pounds, 11 shillings — I was only on seven pounds a week.

You knocked them in, put linseed oil on and prayed they would last the season. I’ve still got the bat I scored my double hundred for England with. I got it signed but the flaming signatures have faded.

Should we use a Kookaburra ball to give us more chance to beat the Aussies?

Bumble: I think balls around the world should be made to the same specifications, with the same number of stitches and the same width of seam. I think the Dukes is the better ball. I can’t understand why the Kookaburra goes so soft.

Eoin Morgan may have thought out bowing out after winning the World Cup last year

Nasser: I don’t think everything should be geared towards beating Australia but perhaps the summer before going there you might want groundsmen to prepare flatter pitches. What’s more important is getting the right type of bowlers. You can’t go to Australia with four medium-fast men and a finger spinner. You need extra pace.

Nasser, you bowed out at the top with a test ton. Should Eoin Morgan have retired after the World Cup?

Nasser: There was certainly a case for it and I’m sure it crossed Eoin’s mind because there could never be a better way to go out than that World Cup final.

But the difference in my case is that I was done and dusted. I’d become completely scrambled. Eoin still has so much to give and we can be a bit premature in telling people it’s time to go.

Did you have a ground where you could do no wrong … Or right?

Nasser: I couldn’t do anything right at Old Trafford even though it was invariably a good batting pitch. I have good memories of Edgbaston and Trent Bridge. I love Sydney because I got runs and we won there.

Bumble: I was terrible at Headingley. And Lord’s. I loved Old Trafford but I always seemed to do all right at Hampshire’s old ground in Southampton.

Joe Root plays the game with a smile on his face, has great rhythm and is easy on the eye

Who has been your favourite England player since joining the commentary box?

Bumble: Kevin Pietersen on ability and I love watching Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad. Seeing Jimmy get to where he is coming from Burnley is great and he still pops back to his old club. It’s a source of pride round my way.

Nasser: Joe Root. For the whole package. He’s a great ambassador for his country, plays the game with a smile on his face, has great rhythm to his game and is easy on the eye. With all the pressures of captaincy he always has time for you and is a genuinely nice lad. He promotes the game bloody well.

England’s test keeper: Jos Buttler or Ben Foakes?

Nasser: The fact England stuck with Jos Buttler for Sri Lanka should mean they give him another three or four games when Test cricket starts again. He is so talented and has done it in Test cricket. But he has said himself he needs to get runs pretty quickly when he plays again or there will be a change, whether England go to Ben Foakes or Jonny Bairstow.

Bumble: I read in his interview with our paper that Foakes has had issues enjoying the game and that would be in my mind. Going back, you’d say Jack Russell was probably a better keeper than Alec Stewart but you’d pick Stewart.

Go back further and Alan Knott would play ahead of Bob Taylor. I think the same applies now with Jos. That’s who I’d pick.

Jos Buttler should be given another three or four games when Test cricket starts again

Favourite overseas cities to visit?

Nasser: I love the culture of Mumbai, I really enjoy Cape Town because of the ground and where we stay and, even though it’s not a city, Barbados. Everything about the place and Caribbean cricket is great.

Bumble: Melbourne. I love walking down to Fitzroy because there are some fantastic pubs and restaurants.

Barbados is fantastic and the third one for me is Lahore. I used to really enjoy going down the markets when we went there and to the Badshahi Mosque that can hold 110,000 people.

If you could change one rule in cricket what would it be?

Bumble: How many do you want? I don’t think players should be allowed a drink outside the designated breaks. They get two when it’s hot every session as it is. It just wastes time.

And if a player leaves the field no substitute should be allowed for three overs. It’s all about improving over-rates which are just not good enough.

Carlos Brathwaite produced a brilliant display of batting in the 2016 World T20 final

Nasser: We must do something about over-rates. They struggle to get 90 in a day even with the extra half-hour. Stronger umpiring when things are slowing down has to be the way to do it.

What was the most fortunate innings you played or saw?

Bumble: Whenever I batted the newspapers would always say the same thing: ‘Always ill at ease and never in command.’

I once got a hundred in 100 overs for Lancs against Leicester and Ray Illingworth said it was the worst innings he’d ever seen!

But the one I remember was Mike Atherton making 17 at Southport in 1994 against Somerset and a rapid, wild Dutch bowler called Andre van Troost. Athers took him on until he’d run out of puff and our middle order cashed in.

Nasser: Nathan Astle’s double hundred for New Zealand against us in Christchurch in 2002 was the best innings that didn’t win a match! My hundred earlier in that game on a green drop-in pitch was one of my scratchiest but also gave me almost as much pleasure as the double hundred at Edgbaston because it got us to a competitive score.

Not including cricket, name the sports event you most want to go to after lockdown?

Nasser: I enjoy my occasional trips to Wimbledon but I’ve always wanted to go to the Masters. I love watching golf and I want to know what Augusta is really like.

Bumble: Thirsk races. They are talking about racing behind closed doors and I really hope that comes off. I flipping love my racing.

Ben Stokes to Carlos Brathwaite in the 2016 World T20 final. Terrible over or brilliant batting?

Bumble: Brilliant batting. He was absolutely in the zone and I got the same feeling as when I watched Yuvraj Singh tonk Stuart Broad for six sixes in an over in Durban. Ben tried everything and it didn’t matter. He was just going out the park. It was a great spectacle.

Nasser: A bit of both. Ben would admit he got his yorkers wrong and bowled far too straight but pressure scrambles your brain and all credit to him for coming back so strongly from that. Brathwaite hasn’t done much since then but I remember having a conversation with Ian Bishop just before and he told me to watch out for him. It was great final-over batting.

Follow @asknasserbumble on twitter to leave your questions or email [email protected]




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