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Norwich boss Smith reveals his guilt over risking his players' welfare by fulfilling Villa fixture

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Norwich boss Dean Smith reveals his guilt over risking players’ heath by fulfilling Aston Villa fixture during Covid outbreak after he was forced to play Billy Gilmour despite a high temperature and Sam Byram, who had just returned from a serious injury

  • Dean Smith fears two games in 48 hours is putting his players’ welfare at risk
  • Norwich City host Arsenal on Sunday and travel to Crystal Palace on Tuesday
  • Smith says he should have pushed for Aston Villa game to be called off 


Dean Smith says the Covid crisis has already seen him put his Norwich players’ welfare in jeopardy.

The Norwich manager fears he will be doing just that once more because of two games in the space of 48 hours.

Smith described a normal festive schedule in a time of the Omicron variant pandemic as ‘lunacy’.

Dean Smith slammed the packed festive schedule during the Covid crisis as 'lunacy'

Dean Smith slammed the packed festive schedule during the Covid crisis as ‘lunacy’

The 20th-place Canaries have reported fresh Covid cases ahead of the home game with Arsenal, which is followed by a trip to Crystal Palace on Tuesday.

Norwich’s trip to West Ham last weekend was postponed because of illness and injury in the Canaries camp but Smith revealed he regretted not calling off the home game with Aston Villa on December 14.

The 2-0 defeat saw midfielder Billy Gilmour play all 90 minutes despite a high temperature and Sam Byram, out injured since February last year, come on to replace Ozan Kabak, who had only just recovered from illness.

Byram was not scheduled to return until January but remains in the squad.

Midfielder Billy Gilmour play all 90 minutes against Aston Villa despite a high temperature

Midfielder Billy Gilmour play all 90 minutes against Aston Villa despite a high temperature

‘I blame myself for not pushing to get the game called off because we shouldn’t have played,’ Smith said. ‘I had four players pull out on the day of the game and three on the bench that I couldn’t put on. We ended up putting on as a substitute a guy who hadn’t played for 22 months.

‘He played 43 minutes. It would have been bordering on negligent by myself if he had got injured and I would have felt very guilty if he had done.

‘We are in a dangerous situation now where we are risking the health and welfare of the players. Against Villa we had a player playing 90 minutes with a temperature of 38.4 degrees, which is not right.’

Smith said he expected Norwich to play both games because they had up to 17 senior players in training.

Norwich boss says he is having to risk the health and fitness of players during the busy period

Norwich boss says he is having to risk the health and fitness of players during the busy period

But he revealed the tight scheduling had already led to extra injuries, with midfielder Mathias Normann now having to undergo surgery on a pelvic problem.

‘The festive schedule is difficult normally but it is nigh on impossible at the moment to ask players to play twice in 48 hours,’ Smith said.

‘At the moment I don’t know how we are going to do it. We have had to push rehab forward and people are breaking down because of that, and it’s asking massive questions of everybody’s squads.

‘It’s lunacy that we are having to play two games in 48 hours and there has got to be a question about the integrity of the competition when weakened teams are playing.’ 

Norwich are bottom of the Premier League and face a fight for survival this season

Norwich are bottom of the Premier League and face a fight for survival this season 

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