Wilder issues defence of Sheffield United's hugging celebration

Chris Wilder issues staunch defence of his Sheffield United team’s celebration after ending their 20-game winless Premier League run as he insists it is ‘unnatural and unreal’ to expect stars to stop hugging on the pitch

  • Sheffield United ended a 20-match winless run with 1-0 victory over Newcastle 
  • The Blades players were seen hugging after the goal and at the full-time whistle
  • This week players have been urged not to hug or high-five to stop Covid spread
  • Chris Wilder insists it is ‘unnatural and unreal’ to expect players not to celebrate

Chris Wilder has backed his Sheffield United players’ emotional celebrations during their first Premier League win in 20 matches – amid calls for footballers to stop hugging each other in a bid to stop the spread of coronavirus.

As Covid-19 continues to devastate the UK, football has continued, but this week has brought calls from a leading virologist for players to be booked – and in some cases sent off – if they get too close to their team-mates while celebrating.

Billy Sharp scored the only goal of the game for Sheffield United in their victory over Newcastle on Tuesday night, with the players obviously delighted at ending a 186-day winless streak.

Sheffield United’s players were seen hugging each other in celebration after their huge goal

Billy Sharp netted from the penalty spot to end Sheffield United’s 20-game winless run

Chris Wilder says it is ‘unnatural and unreal’ to expect his team not to celebrate their victory

And boss Wilder was insistent in his post-match press conference that it was near-impossible to expect players to ‘show no emotion’ after netting for their side. 

‘We’ve talked before about the country looking at us but it is an emotional game on the pitch and on the touchline,’ the Sheffield United manager said. ‘It is unnatural and unreal [not to celebrate].

‘How can they not? They are team-mates and I don’t see any way they can just walk back to the halfway line and show no emotion after what they’ve been through for a long period.’ 

The lack of social distancing in matches has become a huge issue for football after exuberant celebrations from players and staff in the FA Cup third round, and it is one of the factors fuelling calls for the game to be suspended.

But Dr Julian Tang has called on the sport’s governing bodies to take action to reduce the risk of transmitting the new variant of the virus with a simple rule change. 

Dr Tang’s comments come after Government expressed its ‘growing frustration’ to the football authorities over repeated offences in terms of on-pitch antics, dressing-room celebrations or players breaking social distancing rules in their private life.

There have been calls this week for players to be booked – or sent off – if they hug each other

A leading virologist has warned of the dangers of ‘scrums’ spreading Covid-19 among teams

‘We cannot keep going round this loop of saying it’s a problem and it happens again,’ a Whitehall source told Sportsmail. ‘These things should not be happening.’

Dr Tang, a consultant virologist at Leicester Royal Infirmary and Associate Professor at the University of Leicester, said the way to tackle ‘celebratory scrums’, which are high risk for transmission, is to educate players and then impose a sanction, if only until most of the population is vaccinated.

‘If you have a scrum you have close contact for several seconds and that can transmit the virus. 

‘You go home and you can spread it among your own bubble that can include elderly friends and family, which could put them in hospital or cause their death.

Crawley Town celebrated on and off the pitch after their win over Leeds United in the FA Cup

Spurs’ players ran to youngster Alfie Devine when he scored at Marine in the FA Cup

‘So, why take the risk to yourself or your contacts from a single 10 or 20 second scrum. You don’t have to do it.

‘If it happens once you get a yellow card and if it happens again you are off.

‘It is a disincentive for that contact, recognising that it could have much bigger consequences.’

The FA, Premier League and EFL are reminding clubs of their responsibilities with respect to social distancing, including on the field and in the changing rooms.


Round 1: Aug 31-Sep 6 – 1,605 tested, with three testing positive.

Round 2: Sep 7-13 – 2,131 tested, with four testing positive.

Round 3: Sep 14-20- 1,574 tested, with three testing positive.

Round 4: Sep 21-27 – 1,595 tested, with 10 testing positive.

Round 5: Sep 28-Oct 4 – 1,587 tested, with nine testing positive.

Round 6: Oct 5-11 – 1,128 tested, with five testing positive.

Round 7: Oct 12-18 – 1,575 tested, with eight testing positive.

Round 8: Oct 19-25 – 1,609 tested, with two testing positive.

Round 9: Oct 26-Nov 1 – 1,446 tested, with four testing positive.

Round 10: Nov 2-8 – 1,646 tested, with four testing positive.

Round 11: Nov 9-15 – 1,207 tested, with 16 testing positive.

Round 12: Nov 16-22 – 1,530 tested, with eight testing positive.

Round 13: Nov 23-29 – 1,381 tested, with 10 testing positive.

Round 14: Nov 30-Dec 6 – 1,483 tested, with 14 testing positive.

Round 15: Dec 7-13 – 1,549 tested, with six testing positive.

Round 16: Dec 14-20 – 1,569 tested, with seven testing positive 

Round 17: Dec 21-27 – 1,479 tested, with 18 testing positive 

Round 18: Dec 28-Jan 3 – 2,295 tested, with 40 testing positive 

Round 19: Jan 4-Jan 10 – 2,593 tested, with 36 testing positive

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