Sunderland have had to postpone yet another League One fixture after 13 players, including all three goalkeepers, tested positive for Coronavirus.
Tuesday night’s game against Accrington Stanley is the fourth game the club have been forced to cancel since a mass outbreak at the training ground before Christmas.
The postponements will be a future problem for new manager Lee Johnson as they are likely to lead to fixture congestion later in the season as they chase promotion, at the third attempt, from League One.
Johnson replaced Phil Parkinson at the start of December but has only taken charge of two games because of the Covid situation.
A club statement said: “Scheduled to take place on Tuesday 29 December, the club has informed the EFL that it will be unable to play the fixture due to the ongoing effects of a Covid-19 outbreak at the Academy of Light.
“Due to the scale of this outbreak and the volume of positive tests returned by players and staff, the club has taken the decision to postpone the game based solely on the health and wellbeing of all affected.
“Lee Johnson’s side are now set to return to action in the New Year, kicking off 2021 with a trip to Northampton Town on Saturday 2 January (KO 3pm).”
The EFL have confirmed that the postponement will now be the subject of an investigation, in line with the guidelines set out for the return of football in the pandemic.
Johnson has admitted the outbreak has been a challenge he had not foreseen when he took the job.
“I think we’ve ended up with about 13 players testing positive for COVID-19. Not all of those have had symptoms,” he said.
“A couple of those struggled, in terms of it’s taken longer than they had hoped to get over. We’re just monitoring them all as much as possible, and obviously our thoughts are with them and their families because for a couple of them, their families have picked it up as well.
“It’s been tough because it’s unprecedented times and we just don’t know it’s going to affect their lung capacity or anything else moving forward.”
Sunderland’s North East neighbours, Newcastle United, also suffered a large number of Covid-19 cases and were told to shut the training ground for ten days in order to contain the outbreak. They are still without captain Jamal Lascelles and forward Allan Saint-Maximin with both players suffering a form of long Covid which has left them unable to train.
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