Premier League clubs must reassure players there will be no repercussions if they are unwilling to risk their health by returning to action during the COVID-19 pandemic, former England manager Sam Allardyce has said.
Several players have expressed concerns about the league's plans to resume amid the novel coronavirus outbreak, which has infected more than 4.6 million people globally, causing over 310,200 deaths.
"Getting the players fit in four weeks could be done, but that's the least of their worries. I think the biggest challenge for players will be dealing with the mental side," Allardyce wrote in a column for The Times.
"My first point of call as a manager in this situation would be to speak to all the players… find out whether they want to play or not. I'd reassure them there would be no repercussions if they decided they would find it too difficult to play."
Clubs will hold an emergency meeting later on Monday to vote on a return to group training as part of "Project Restart," which envisions a resumption in June.
"We will all want to play but we'll all want to play under safe conditions," Allardyce added.
"If they're too scared… they won't be able to perform to their best and then they'll start getting criticized. Some players won't want to play and that has to be respected."
Former Chelsea doctor Eva Carneiro said players had to be able to make decisions without fear of upsetting their club, particularly their manager.
"There are pressures on players to deliver. The manager is a boss who has immense power over your next selection," Carneiro, who left the London club after falling out with then manager Jose Mourinho, told the Times.
"We've moved away from that image of the manager being a father figure. I understand why there would be a drive to return and a lot of players will want to follow that.
"Football is high stakes but we need to lose this fear of upsetting individual entities in this COVID-19 crisis," added Carneiro, who in 2015 was reprimanded by Mourinho for running onto the pitch to treat an injured Eden Hazard.
"We need to spread understanding that this is bigger than any single club, manager or player wanting to return."
In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.
Your news needs your support
Since the early stages of the COVID-19 crisis, The Japan Times has been providing free access to crucial news on the impact of the novel coronavirus as well as practical information about how to cope with the pandemic. Please consider subscribing today so we can continue offering you up-to-date, in-depth news about Japan.