August 10, 2004
Magpies under orders to play.
The Premier League last night told Newcastle they expect them to turn up for Saturday’s away game at Middlesbrough after an independent ocular expert ruled that the conjunctivitis infection afflicting five United players poses merely a low risk to public health.
“On the basis of the present information, the fixture will go ahead. Should any new information come to light we will review that,” said a Premier League spokesman. The league does not generally postpone games on grounds of player illness but because of the potential public health risk they consulted independent experts.
Newcastle contacted the governing body yesterday morning seeking to defer the game on the grounds that club doctors believed several players could be incubating the virus and could endanger the health of Middlesbrough players and staff.
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Although disappointed by the decision Newcastle still have the right to appeal to the Premier League for a postponement if circumstances change. There are no hard and fast rules relating to such scenarios but convention has it that any team possessing 16 fit professionals should be prepared to play.
Should an appeal occur, the Premier League will dispatch independent medical experts to Newcastle to determine the seriousness of a predicament complicated by the eight-day incubation period involved with this form of eye infection. “Medical experts have told us that, in case like this, 70 to 80% of the work-force are usually affected by the virus and this is worrying,” said a club spokesman.
So much so that Newcastle’s medical staff have urged Sir Bobby Robson to abandon training as the resultant close proximity of players could spread the virus further. Robson opted to ignore them, moving his squad to the club’s academy and asking his players to change in their cars. Meanwhile Stephen Carr completed a medical last night and is due to discuss personal terms today ahead of his proposed move from Tottenham