The threat of catching coronavirus has persuaded Newcastle United to abandon a cherished morning ritual. Steve Bruce's players have become accustomed to shaking hands with every teammate and member of the backroom staff each day as they assemble for training but the practice has been temporarily halted on medical advice.
“There’s a ritual here that everybody shakes hands with everybody as soon as we see each other every morning,” said Bruce as he prepared for Saturday’s game against Burnley at St James’ Park. “But we’ve stopped that on the advice of our club doctor. Thankfully, we’ve got a superb doctor here and he will keep us informed of what we have to do. We’re like everybody else, we’re glued to the TV for where it’s going to go next and let’s hope it doesn’t get any worse in this country.”
The potential need to confront coronavirus represents uncharted waters for the football community, Bruce included, but clubs are familiar with the need to sometimes isolate and quarantine individuals to cope with assorted other viruses and infections of the type which afflicted Newcastle in December.
“In confined areas, like we’ve got here, you have to be careful,” said Bruce. “There was a time over Christmas when there was a virus knocking around here – not coronavirus – so we’re a bit mindful of the fact that a bug can sweep through. We had four or five [PLAYERS]at Christmas and two of my staff [suffering from the virus], so you stay at home, basically. But it’s always something you’re looking at.”
The handshake ban has not prevented Newcastle players from socialising, and this week they staged a barbecue to celebrate their Argentinian centre-half Federico Fernández’s 31st birthday. “The South Americans have meat rather than cake for birthdays,” said Bruce. “We’ve had that much steak it’s incredible but there’s a unique spirit among my players.”