(Reuters) – Premier League clubs must reassure players there will be no repercussions if they are unwilling to risk their health by returning to action during the COVID-19 pandemic, former England manager Sam Allardyce has said.

Several players have expressed concerns about the league’s plans to resume amid the novel coronavirus outbreak, which has infected more than 4.64 million people globally, causing over 310,200 deaths.

“Getting the players fit in four weeks could be done, but that’s the least of their worries. I think the biggest challenge for players will be dealing with the mental side,” Allardyce wrote in a column for The Times.

“My first point of call as a manager in this situation would be to speak to all the players … find out whether they want to play or not. I’d reassure them there would be no repercussions if they decided they would find it too difficult to play.”

Clubs will hold an emergency meeting later on Monday to vote on a return to group training as part of “Project Restart”, which envisages a resumption in June.

“We will all want to play but we’ll all want to play under safe conditions,” Allardyce added.

“If they’re too scared … they won’t be able to perform to their best and then they’ll start getting criticised. Some players won’t want to play and that has to be respected.”

(Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru; Editing by Peter Rutherford)

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