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It is not life or death, it is the FA Cup – Graham Potter on Covid-19 struggles

By Jim van Wijk, PA
Football must remember it is “not life or death” as the fixture schedule continues to be disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic, according to Brighton boss Graham Potter.

Saturday’s FA Cup third-round tie between Southampton and Shrewsbury has been called off due to a Covid-19 outbreak at the Sky Bet League One club.

Elsewhere, both Aston Villa and Middlesbrough have seen their preparations impacted by a series of positive tests.

Villa are due to host Premier League leaders Liverpool on Friday night, but have closed their Bodymoor Heath training ground after revealing “a large number” of players and staff members had contracted the virus.

Derby, meanwhile, will send a group of under-23 and under-18 players to Chorley following a Covid-19 outbreak which has closed their training ground, with interim head coach Wayne Rooney and the entire first-team squad having to miss the tie in Lancashire.

Potter is preparing his side to head to Newport on Sunday, and accepts given the current tough restrictions in place across the whole of the UK, everything is put into perspective.

“When you say the word important, in the context of what is going on in the world at the moment, it is not life or death – it is the FA Cup, that is the reality,” the Brighton manager said.

“Of course from a football perspective, we want to play the games because I don’t think having a backlog of games is necessarily going to help anybody.

“But I also say that during this time when we are going to get postponements, you always have to act within the best interests of society, the communities we are in and the health of people.

“Football becomes a little bit secondary and that is where we are at at the moment.

“For us to sit here as an industry and say ‘we are more important than anything else’ is, I think, very foolish.

“We have to do our best to play the games, sticking to the rules, sticking to the protocols and rules, trying to be healthy and safe. Then we will do whatever the people think is the best thing for us to do.”

Potter added: “We are incredibly fortunate to be in this position because there are a lot of industries that have been forced to close and stop, but we are carrying on.

“People often refer to pressure whereas, to me, you take a look at the news, see people work on the frontline, in the NHS with Covid and in the hospitals and I think: ‘that’s pressure’.

“We are fortunate and, whilst we want to fight for points, win matches and do our best, there is always an element of perspective that you need to have.

“Whilst I agree that we want to play the games, get them all done, there is a bigger thing going on and we have to adapt to that.”

Crystal Palace captain Luka Milivojevic issued an apology after he broke coronavirus rules on New Year’s Eve when his household mixed with Fulham forward Aleksandar Mitrovic and his family.

Manchester City full-back Benjamin Mendy was another to have hosted friends at his house on December 31, while three Tottenham players – Erik Lamela, Giovani Lo Celso and Sergio Reguilon – attended a Christmas party where West Ham’s Manuel Lanzini was also present.

Potter believes education of the importance of everyone following the Government guidelines is key going forwards into 2021.

“Of course you try to remind them, speak to them, you have to remember they (players) are human beings, sometimes human beings make mistakes,” the Brighton boss said.

“We also want to try to help them, educate them, help them live through these difficult times and understand their privileged position and their fortune – which I think they do – but it is good to remind everybody.”

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