The threat of catching coronavirus has persuaded Newcastle United to abandon a cherished morning ritual.
Steve Bruce’s players have become accustomed to shaking hands with every teammate and member of the backroom staff each day as they assemble for training but the practice has been temporarily halted on medical advice.
“There’s a ritual here that everybody shakes hands with everybody as soon as we see each other every morning,” said Bruce as he prepared for Saturday’s game against Burnley at St James’ Park.
“But we’ve stopped that on the advice of our club doctor. Thankfully, we’ve got a superb doctor here and he will keep us informed of what we have to do. We’re like everybody else, we’re glued to the TV for where it’s going to go next and let’s hope it doesn’t get any worse in this country.”
“Everybody has to be respectful of it, don’t we? It’s been rammed down our throats often enough, on TV and the rest of it.”
The potential need to confront coronavirus represents uncharted waters for the football community, Bruce included, but clubs are familiar with the need to sometimes isolate and quarantine individuals to cope with assorted other viruses and infections of the type which afflicted Newcastle in December.
“In confined areas, like we’ve got here, you have to be careful,” said Bruce. “There was a time over Christmas when there was a virus knocking around here – not coronavirus – so we’re a bit mindful of the fact that a bug can sweep through.
We had four or five [players] at Christmas and two of my staff [suffering from the virus], so you stay at home, basically. Stephen Clemence [the first-team coach] didn’t travel to Manchester United. But it’s always something you’re looking at.
“When you’re in a small environment like we are, you have to guard against things like shaking hands. If someone has a bug or whatever they stay away, because otherwise it rapidly spreads.”