Antonio Conte believes footballers will continue to be “professional” amid talk of a strike over welfare concerns but has questioned the support of the Premier League.
Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola raised the prospect of a stand forcing action when he suggested a strike may be the only way to call serious attention to the concerns amid a top-flight fixture pile-up.
Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson has also highlighted issues of player welfare this week and while the intensity of the Christmas schedule is an annual subject of debate, it has been exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic, especially given the rise in Covid-19 outbreaks at clubs.
Spurs boss Conte was without nine players recently due to the virus and it resulted in three of their matches being postponed, which subsequently saw them thrown out of the Europa Conference League, and the Italian remains irked by the response of the Premier League.
“We are all professionals and we faced two weeks ago a really bad situation,” the Tottenham manager said when asked about players potentially striking.
“Don’t forget, during a really bad situation we lost the Conference League and no one tried to do anything. Not UEFA, not the Premier League, and then I have to speak and suggest what?
“I think we are all professionals and if we have the possibility to have the training session, we have to do it and to continue to work very hard.
“If they decide we have to play, we play because we are professionals but for sure in the last two weeks no one helps us.”
Conte was part of a virtual meeting between the Premier League and its 20 managers on Thursday but the former Chelsea boss was far from pleased with the outcome after the chat had been scheduled to seemingly allow talks over the congested fixture list and other key issues to occur.
“When you have a wall in front of you, you can speak and ask what you want but every decision was (already) taken,” he said.
“I don’t want to suggest anything because I think I waste time. We waste words and it is no use speaking if I understand nothing can happen.”
Guardiola sparked the debate over players potentially striking on Thursday when he faced the media ahead of Man City’s home match with Leicester on Sunday, which is followed by a midweek trip to Brentford before they host Arsenal on New Year’s Day.
The Spaniard asked: “Should the players and the managers be all together and make a strike or something, because just through words it’s not going to be solved?”
Crystal Palace boss Patrick Vieira would not support a players’ strike but does share concerns over the current situation.
With the Premier League recently recording a record number of positive Covid-19 cases from their weekly testing, the Eagles manager talked up the importance of those coming back from the virus being given time to recover.
“I don’t know if they would be right to do it, the only thing I can tell you is I am against this kind of strike,” Vieira said ahead of Palace’s trip to Tottenham on Boxing Day.
“What is really important at the moment is the voice of players or managers should be heard a little bit more.”
He continued: “I am not worried about the players’ welfare regarding the games during this period because it has been like that for years and years. What I am worried about is the players’ welfare regarding Covid.
“I think players coming back from a Covid situation and asking them to play, having not had enough training, is a lot on them. This is what I am worried about.”
Professional Footballers’ Association chief executive Maheta Molango said: “I’ve spoken with many senior players on this issue. I can tell you that it isn’t going away. Players don’t choose to speak out on issues like this without having given it a lot of thought.”
Norwich are one of several top-flight clubs to have suffered an outbreak of coronavirus cases which has resulted in postponements but manager Dean Smith would not back a player strike.
The Canaries boss said: “I don’t think you can. We have to follow the guidelines of the league that we are in.”
Smith, who was in Thursday’s managers’ meeting with the Premier League, added: “We went into a meeting yesterday where the decisions had already been made, so I think we had already missed the boat in terms of decision making.
“They decided the season would continue as was and we have got to fulfil fixtures now, so we have to cope as best we can.”