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Men’s Football Preston boss left perplexed with fans returning to stadiums

PRESTON boss Alex Neil admits he is “quite surprised” that plans for supporters to return to stadiums this weekend are going ahead.

The Lilywhites’ Championship clash with Neil’s old club Norwich at Carrow Road is among seven English Football League fixtures today set to have up to 1,000 fans in attendance.

The fixtures are being used as pilot events for the reintroduction of supporters to venues — on a socially distanced basis — amid the coronavirus pandemic.

It will be the first time the English men’s professional leagues will have paying spectators since March.

Neil was quoted by the Lancashire Post as saying: “I have been one of the advocates of wanting to get fans back in as soon as possible.

“However, things are changing in normal life, there seems to be a bit of a spike again and I’m actually quite surprised they are continuing with introducing fans.

“But we would all like it back to normal as quickly as possible, providing it is safe to do so.”

Norwich striker Teemu Pukki told his club’s official website: “When we found out about the news that there would be fans, we were all pretty happy about it. I’ve been missing playing in front of the fans a lot.

“I hope they give us a good cheering from the stands and we will do our best on the pitch.”

The other Championship game being used as a test event is Middlesbrough’s encounter with Bournemouth at the Riverside Stadium, ahead of which Boro boss Neil Warnock has tested positive for Covid-19.

With the 71-year-old now self-isolating, assistant Kevin Blackwell is set to be in charge in the dugout.

Bournemouth boss Jason Tindall wished Warnock a speedy recovery at his pre-match press conference.

And when asked if there had been concerns within the Cherries camp about making the trip, with tougher coronavirus measures for people in north-east England having been announced, Tindall said: “We’ve had no players express those concerns to us.

“Both [club] doctors I know have been in regular contact, obviously when the news broke about Neil, and then with the fans being allowed in the stadium and the surrounding areas with the cases that are going on there, the doctors have been in contact with each other and they don’t seem to be too concerned.

“I’m sure when we get to Middlesbrough they’ve got all the right protocols in place to make sure that it’s a safe environment for everyone to be in.”

Speaking ahead of Sheffield United’s Thursday loss to Burnley, manager Chris Wilder had similar thoughts to Neil.

“I just don’t get where we are with it all, I’ve got to say, I haven’t got a clue.

“Am I allowed to see my nan? Am I allowed to see my mum? But then we can have 1,000 people in a ground but we can’t have 15,000 and then I can’t go and have a pint with my mates unless there’s only six of us.

“So I’ve got to say I’m like the majority of the people in this country — I have not got a clue what’s going off, haven’t got a clue.

“If anybody can help me … I’ll try and affect that game of football and help with the staff and the boys getting a result but everything else, all that other stuff, I ain’t got a clue.”

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