Newcastle manager Steve Bruce has told his players to stay at home during the Premier League’s coronavirus lockdown.
The Premier League announced on Friday that all matches would be postponed until April 3 over fears about the spread of the deadly pandemic.
Bruce said Newcastle had already drawn up a response to the coronavirus outbreak when the governing bodies acted on Friday after Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta and Chelsea midfielder Callum Hudson-Odoi tested positive for the illness.
That will entail the players staying at home and working on their personal fitness programmes to stay in shape.
Bruce, whose side were due to face Sheffield United on Saturday, said: “We’ve set the personal programmes in place, they’re ready to go.
“I think that’s what the doctors of all the clubs are recommending. Up until yesterday, we thought we were fine to play this weekend, but when the news broke (about Arteta), it was obvious the situation had changed.
“Once we heard about that, and Leicester and now Chelsea, we knew things had moved on.
“We’ve been talking about what will happen if everything is suspended for two weeks, four weeks. The plan would be for the players to go away with their own individual programmes, to take them away from here, because we are on top of each other.
“There are 70 or 80 of us in quite a confined space. If one of them got infected when they were away from the training ground and then came back in, clearly that would be an issue. It’s so contagious, apparently.”
There were even isolated chants against hated club owner Mike Ashley during the Wolves loss.
Federico Fernandez, the Newcastle defender, called on fans angry with Bruce’s arrival to get behind the new man.
“We are looking forward to working with him, he is a man of great experience, we are thinking positive,” said the Argentine.
“I understand the fans’ situation,” he said, addressing supporters’ negative reaction to the 58-year-old Bruce, a lifelong Newcastle fan.
“For us, we want to work, we want to do better as a team… to show the fans and everyone that we can compete.”
In a statement, Bruce, who resigned from Championship side Sheffield Wednesday to join Newcastle, called it “a very special moment for me and my family”.
“This is my boyhood club and it was my dad’s club.”
Bruce might be a local boy, but his two-year spell as coach of Newcastle’s fierce rivals Sunderland and a mediocre record as a Premier League manager are major black marks for an already infuriated fan base.
Bruce, who has won four promotions from the second tier of English football, has suffered relegation from the Premier League twice.
His highest finish was 10th with Birmingham in 2003-04 and Sunderland in 2010-11.
Bruce has his work cut out at Newcastle, who have lost their leading forwards from last season — Salomon Rondon and Ayoze Perez — and are the only Premier League club yet to make a summer signing.
The transfer window closes in less than a month, adding to the pressure on Bruce and Ashley as they try to win over disillusioned fans.
There have been calls for a boycott of St James’ Park until Ashley sells the crisis club.
If Bruce was watching on television, he would have been exasperated by what he saw from his side in China, who were under the interim stewardship of academy coach Ben Dawson.
Diogo Jota struck twice in the first half for Chinese-owned Wolves as demoralised Newcastle wilted alarmingly in the Nanjing heat.
Champions Manchester City were to play West Ham United in the next match in the Premier League Asia Trophy.
Newcastle United announced on Wednesday that Steve Bruce has been appointed head coach following the departure of Rafael Benitez from the Premier League club.
“Newcastle United can now announce that Steve Bruce has been appointed as the club’s new head coach,” the club said on its website, adding that the former Manchester United player had signed an initial three-year contract.
The 58-year-old Bruce, who grew up in Tyneside and is a former coach of Newcastle’s fierce rivals Sunderland, will be joined at St. James’ Park by coaches Steve Agnew and Stephen Clemence, the club added.
Bruce, who resigned from Sheffield Wednesday prior to signing with Newcastle, told the club website: “I’m delighted and incredibly proud to be appointed as head coach of Newcastle United.
“This is my boyhood club and it was my dad’s club, so this is a very special moment for me and my family.”
Lee Charnley, managing director at Newcastle United, said the club was pleased to appoint a coach of Bruce’s “vast experience and connections…”
“The hard work for Steve and his team starts immediately and we will be fully prepared for the challenge of a new Premier League season,” he added.
The Newcastle squad are currently on a pre-season tour in China and Bruce and his staff are scheduled to travel to join them there following Wednesday’s match in Nanjing against Wolves.
Coach Mike Phelan has been sacked as Hull City head coach less than three months after securing the role on a permanent basis.
Phelan was installed as Hull caretaker boss following the departure of Steve Bruce in July and led The Tigers until October 13, when he was finally given the role on a full-time basis until the end of the season.
The 3-1 defeat away at West Bromwich Albion on Monday left Hull in 20th place on 13 points and without a win in the Premier League since November 6.
Hull have won just three times since securing promotion back to the top flight via the championship play-offs last May and are currently three points from safety.