Reports surfaced early Monday morning that Newcastle skipper Jamaal Lascelles, and playmaker Allan Saint-Maximin had been sidelined due to COVID-19. They join a list of 9 other players who have or have had the virus including Jeff Hendrick, Isaac Hayden, Emil Krafth, and Federico Fernandez.
Confirmed: Allan Saint-Maximin and Jamaal Lascelles have suffered from Covid and are happy for that to be out there. say club sources. Players now in recovery. #nufc— Lee Ryder (@lee_ryder) December 21, 2020
Both players have not made an appearance for the club since the 0-2 loss to Chelsea. Going into the next match against Crystal Palace it was revealed that both players had picked up minor injuries. This was believable considering Lascelles was subbed off against Chelsea due to injury, and ASM picking up a lower-body injury is a regular occurrence. However, after multiple weeks without either player making an appearance while others were returning from injury and COVID-19 rumors began to swirl about the whereabouts of each player.
Once Allan Saint-Maximin was dropped from the teamsheet due to injury ahead of the Crystal Palace match rumors began to float around that he had been dropped by Bruce after openly criticizing the manager during training. These were of course rumors, but on NUFC Twitter rumors become the truth to many and many began to believe that the Frenchman who just signed a new deal was slated to leave in January. This past weekend was the tipping point for the “unhappy Allan” storyline as rumors began to float around that he was perfectly fine, and missed the match because he was in France ahead of a move away from the club.
I’d like to see Bruce asked on the record why our best player is sat on his arse in France right now refusing to play for him. Its almost like the story is on embargo— Martin Johnson (@MartinJohnson10) December 19, 2020
On the contrary, others claimed that he was running around Newcastle and decided to skip the match.
Seen plenty of people say they have seen him out running— Luke W (@LukeWhitrow) December 19, 2020
The beginning of this week saw Lascelles dragged into the rumor mill as word began to spread that he and ASM both got into a bust-up with Steve Bruce. Of course, none of that proved to be true.
Allan Saint-Maximin even went as far as to address the rumors about his unhappiness at Newcastle on Instagram live after the events of this weekend. He claims that of course the rumors are not true and he is happy to be on Tyneside.
Allan Saint-Maximin on Instagram: "I have no problem with Steve Bruce, the club or the fans." #nufc— Lee Ryder (@lee_ryder) December 21, 2020
This statement from ASM came after he posted a picture of himself with a group of elderly people soon after it was revealed he was recovering from COVID-19. The comments on his post were filled with Newcastle fans asking loads of questions, so the player addressed what he could via Instagram Live.
A timetable on the return of either player is currently unknown, but what is known is that many fans are sighing a sigh of relief after having an understanding as to why the two players were missing from recent matches. The way that Newcastle have handled COVID-19 has been quite polarizing as they have to walk a fine line of informing people of the current situation at the club while respecting the privacy of players. It’s a tricky thing to navigate, especially when there is no directive from the league.
In some American sports leagues, players who have the virus or have been exposed to the virus are added to COVID-19 Injury lists, which allows the fans and media to know precisely why the player is not playing. In the Premier League, however, there is no such list or directive from the league as to how to handle reporting of COVID-19 exposed or positive players. Some clubs like Crystal Palace have been open about players that have been exposed or have the virus, while other clubs such as Newcastle have been cryptic about who may or may not have the virus in order to protect the identity of the players. While the intent from Newcastle is good, it has resulted in a lot of confusion, rumors, debates, and abuse towards journalists who don’t have all of the answers fans want. It is even harder to defend the way Newcastle are handling COVID-19 reporting when you consider that Steve Bruce eventually reveals the identity of all of these players when they return to action.
Newcastle United return to action on Tuesday in the Carabao Cup as they take on a very good Championship side in Brentford, who are led by former Toon player Ivan Toney.