Nix coach would share COVID recovery data

Ed Jackson |

As he handles the post-COVID recovery of about three quarters of his A-League Men squad, Wellington coach Ufuk Talay says he’d be happy to share data with rival clubs if it aids player welfare.

Talay had 17 players and two staff members test positive to the virus in recent weeks, leaving the Phoenix scrambling to fulfil fixtures over the Christmas and New Year period.

A return to action on Friday against Western United was confirmed by the league in one of 13 fixtures announced on Monday. 

The Phoenix are one of eight ALM clubs returning to play following COVID breaks, while there are four A-League Women’s clubs also coming back from disrupted schedules.

Talay admits finding a balance between managing players’ recovery from the virus and building their fitness levels adequately to handle a busy stretch of matches is a challenge.

“You can see some players are fatigued a lot quicker at the moment,” Talay said.

“It’s not going to be easy to build them back up to get them to a certain level. 

“But at the same time the league’s got to continue and we need to expose them as much as we can to be able to train and play at that level.

“We’re taking it day-by-day and every individual case is different, we’ll just look at the players and how they’re coping with it.”

Almost all teams have dealt with cases and, as action resumes, just what the short and long-term effects of the virus are on players is being monitored closely.

Brisbane coach Warren Moon said it was inevitable clubs would suffer “collateral damage” as they bring players back from COVID-19 after his team ended a month-long break with two matches in 72 hours against Sydney FC last week.

Moon said after Saturday’s 1-1 draw with the Sky Blues he was making substitutions purely on “who could go further and who couldn’t” as his team finished the match with 10 men when Luke Ivanovic limped off with a quad strain.

Talay said if sharing data across clubs helps teams ensure players don’t suffer adversely, it is an idea he’d welcome.

“I don’t mind sharing data because for me it’s basically, the most important thing is the health of the players at the end of the day,” he said.

“If there’s something that we can do to help our players and help other clubs as well, I’m more than willing to help.”

As well as Phoenix’s home game with Western at WIN Stadium on Friday, this weekend’s ALM action pits Sydney against Perth on Saturday while on Sunday Central Coast welcome Melbourne City to Gosford and Brisbane host Adelaide at Moreton Daily Stadium.

Tony Popovic’s Melbourne Victory are back in action on Tuesday, January 25 at home against Sydney FC in the first ‘Big Blue’ of the 2021-22 season.

In the ALW there will be four matches this weekend with Victory’s clash with Canberra postponed after positive cases within the United squad.

Table-topping Sydney FC will look to continue their strong form against Melbourne City on Saturday before travelling to Melbourne to face Victory next Tuesday as part of a double-header with the men’s game at AAMI Park.