Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

United Seal off Training Ground

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

United Seal off Training Ground

Article excerpt

Byline: By Simon Rushworth

Steve Harper last night admitted Newcastle's pre-season plans have been thrown into chaos by the spread of conjunctivitis.

This is despite United's increasingly drastic measures to halt the eye infection from taking a firmer hold on Sir Bobby Robson's first-team squad.

Magpies officials have closed the doors on the club's Darsley Park training complex and strictly forbidden any contact between players and management for a minimum of four days.

With this season's Tees-Tyne derby just eight days away, Robson is desperately hoping for the all- clear in time to resume full training on Monday.

However, Harper fears further casualties within the next 48 hours with those players still unaffected constantly checking for symptoms.

"The conjunctivitis problem has really cast a cloud over pre-season," he said.

Harper, who saw friend and goalkeeping rival Shay Given become the first player affected by an infection which has struck down four senior players to date, added: "We know that we probably haven't seen the last of it yet and the Middlesbrough game is getting closer.

"If lads are still contracting it early next week then who knows what could happen?

"It's better that we became aware of it last weekend and not this weekend, but at this stage of the summer we should be stepping things up.

"Instead we're not training together for at least four days."

Health officials were yesterday attempting to prevent the infection spreading further as they continued to decontaminate Darsley Park.

Strict guidelines have been drawn up by Newcastle's medical staff.

"We had a meeting after the Celtic match to discuss how best to tackle the problem and basically we've been told to stay away from each other until Monday at the earliest," said Harper.

"The club doctor has given us a pretty stern talking to and made sure we understand how serious this thing is.

"We've got a piece of paper outlining exactly what we should and shouldn't do right down to washing our hands every time we come into contact with anyone or anything associated with the football club. …

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