Health and safety has to come first - Kewell

Reporter: Simon Smedley
Date published: 24 September 2020

Latics boss Harry Kewell has generally backed the Government's move to stall plans to get football fans back into stadiums any time soon, but he and his players are clearly missing the much-needed backing from the stands.

After a handful of EFL clubs were allowed a small number of fans back inside grounds for the first time last weekend, PM Boris Johnson's stricter restrictions announced during the week means further pilot events have been shelved for now due to the ongoing spike in coronavirus cases.

As well as hitting all football clubs in the pocket of course, it's a major blow for Kewell, whose side will welcome Crawley Town on Saturday in League Two, again behind closed doors.

"It is tough, but we have to respect what the Government say," said Kewell.

"We have to think about the health and safety of fans, players and the general public

"We don't want a second outbreak so we have to be very careful, but of course we want to see the fans back inside stadiums.

"I genuinely believe that my team would play better with the fans behind them.

"We're taking away something that's a religion for many people and their football.

"Fans work hard all week, and all they want to do is go and watch their team play live at the weekend, with their mates, enjoy it, and see a good performance.

"Hopefully we will have that back sooner rather than later, and that's not only for Oldham, but for everyone who loves the game.

"It is a release for a lot of people to come and watch their team.

"It's so important for those fans, but we have to respect the rules and ideas, and we have to put our health at the forefront."

On the field, Kewell is hungry for Latics to grab their first points of the season against his old club Crawley, coming on the back of a bumpy week which saw a 'terrible' 3-0 defeat at Stevenage being followed up by Tuesday's 4-0 EFL Trophy group stage victory against Wolves under-21s.

Kewell, who was manager at Crawley between May, 2017 and August, 2018, said: "Tuesday is all pushed aside now, and it's about taking that momentum into Saturday now.

"We're going to come up against a difficult Crawley side.

"They put in a good performance last time out when beating Scunthorpe.

"First and foremost we need to be ready for a fight, it might not be beautiful football, but it's up to us to earn the right to play."

Meanwhile, Kewell has refused to confirm or deny rumours circulating that he is interested in signing Swindon's out-of-favour midfielder Matty Palmer.

Palmer (25) played for Latics 14 times previously during a loan spell from Burton Albion in 2016.

"We're always open and looking for players," said Kewell, when asked about Palmer specifically.

"The window is still open, and I think I'd be daft to sit here and say "oh no, we're not interested" and then all of a sudden you are signing players.

"We have about three or four players that we're looking at, and we will see what happens."

Today (Friday) Latics have signed Alfie McCalmont on a season-long loan from Leeds United.

The 20-year-old has immediately linked up with the first team squad ahead of the Crawley game at Boundary Park.

A central and defensive midfielder, the Leeds academy product has represented Northern Ireland at a variety of youth levels, as well with the senior side in September 2019, coming on as a substitute in the 1-0 win over Luxembourg.

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