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‘We've had to get on and deal with Covid-19’ – Holden

City have come out the other side from a Covid-19 affected international break ready to build on their recent good form.

Following a number of positive tests, players were not able to train as normal at the start of the week, with the training ground shut until Thursday after liaison with EFL medical advisors.

But despite preparations being affected for Saturday’s match against Derby County, Head Coach Dean Holden has stressed there are “no excuses.”

Holden himself tested positive for Covid-19 but showed no symptoms.

A change of plans to the schedule in the last fortnight has at least given the squad more time to recover ahead of what will be a demanding nine games in 29 days before Christmas.

The Robins take on a Rams side off the back of consecutive wins against Huddersfield Town and Cardiff City, prior to the break, which have added to their confidence.

 

“It was a great result [at Cardiff] but we’ve had a number of positive tests since then, which we’ve had to deal with,” said Holden. “We had one training session on Thursday and a light session on Friday morning.

“It’s important to be honest. We’ve spoken about how this is not ideal preparation for any game but it is what it is and the players are becoming more and more comfortable with chaos, be that Covid or injuries. We saw that with Tyreeq Bakinson dropping out just before the Huddersfield Town game. You never know what’s around the corner in any season without Covid, so the message is there are no excuses from anybody.

“Our mindset has to be and will be right and the players have had time with their families and now we go into the game full of confidence after two brilliant away wins in those last two games.”

Holden stressed communication and “making the players comfortable” has been key to pressing on as normally as possible, despite the impact of Covid-19 on people’s lives.

“The most important thing is the people who tested positive are now okay and healthy,” he continued. “That’s the best news of all. Now we pull together, it adds to our spirit and we move forward.

“We’re in a good position in the league. We had a little bit of a winless spell before those two wins but that’s part of any season for a club, so we look at where we are and now we focus on this next game.”

Speaking of the table, City sit fifth in the Championship just two points off top spot while their opponents this weekend are bottom of the second tier as things stand. Under the interim management of Wayne Rooney, Liam Rosenior, Shay Given and Justin Walker, Derby will be planning for a resurgence.

Holden said: “Derby have had some turmoil since their last game. The manager (Phillip Cocu) has left, they have a caretaker management team. I said to the players that I’d be lying if I said I knew exactly the team Derby would pick tomorrow. You don’t know with a new management team in charge so again the focus is on us, what we have done well in our formations and making sure we are at our best.”

Clubs will be allowed to make up to five substitutes for the rest of the season, starting with this weekend, following an EFL ruling in line with measures seen during the 2019/20 restart.

Holden said: “I don’t think it will play too much into this weekend due to the players we have out injured. In those five games when I was caretaker last season, there were opportunities to make your five substitutes and it got a bit cloudy. So, we want to keep it simple but if we need the extra sub or two it’s nice to think they might be needed with the predicament of the amount of games we have got coming up.

“We have a good group of players, who are sticking together, who are helping each other and that’s the main thing.”

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