Newcastle United manager Steve Bruce does not expect the Premier League season to resume until the end of June despite the Magpies planning to return to training on Tuesday.
The coronavirus pandemic has halted the majority of sport across the world since March, resulting in the cancellation of many events and leagues.
But authorities in England are set on attempting to recommence the 2019-20 campaign behind closed doors instead of cancelling it or deciding on a premature finish, with ‘Project Restart’ examining how best to get the season going again.
The weekends of June 12 and 19 are reportedly being identified as potential targets for the resumption, with culture secretary Oliver Dowden confirming the government has opened the door to football returning next month.
But even with Newcastle set to be back in training on Tuesday, Bruce thinks the end of June would be a more realistic goal.
“We need a good stretch of time here to get them ready,” Bruce told the Sunday Telegraph. “Certainly, once we get into stage two, that is vitally important.
“We need enough preparation to get these players into shape or they are just going to fall down like a pack of cards.
“Most of the managers have the same concerns. We would need at least six weeks. I don’t see how we can play games until the back end of June.”
For Bruce, that period of pre-resumption preparation begins next week, and he is confident the risks will be low as the squad heads back to training.
“Certainly, the measures being put in place, you’re probably more at risk going to the supermarket or putting petrol in your car,” he added.
“We are in a fortunate position, we can get tested every three days.
“We will be tested on Sunday, every player and every member of staff. Once we get the results back, if everybody is OK, we are pencilled to start training again at 2pm on Tuesday.”
The United Kingdom has been hit heavily by COVID-19, with over 240,000 confirmed cases and 34,446 deaths – only the United States has recorded more fatalities in connection with the virus.