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Mark Bonner reveals Cambridge United’s first signing of the transfer window to boost squad of ‘diamonds’

Cambridge United head coach Mark Bonner. Picture: Simon Lankester
Cambridge United head coach Mark Bonner. Picture: Simon Lankester

Mark Bonner has hailed his squad of Cambridge United 'diamonds'.

The U’s head coach has praised the players for the way that they have adjusted to the challenges created by the pandemic.

A new round of Covid testing was carried out by the EFL this week - the first for months - and United returned a negative set of results.

But the new national lockdown and spread of the various has meant a further set of protocols in football - and that led to the first January signing for the U’s.

“The use of the indoors is not really allowed,” said Bonner.

“The gym is closed, you cannot eat indoors, you can’t use the changing rooms, one in, one out.

“Masks on indoors, masks on in the physio room - which has been fairly standard practice.

“We have got a marquee that we’ve had from the start of the year which is great, so we’ve been able to do some gym work and some preparation there.

“But it does get a bit cold in there.

“A new heater was the first signing of the transfer window that went in there this week!

“That was good because that has helped make that a little bit more of a better environment.”

With players not even able to have showers at the training ground, it means it is a case of getting in and out with not much interaction.

“It’s tough, it makes things harder for us - but we’re not saying feel sorry for us, we’re at work and delighted and privileged to be able to do our job. But at the same time, life is very different for a player,” said Bonner.

“The responsibility for us and the players is to stick by the restrictions that are out there nationally, and from the Football League while we’re at work and report in any symptoms as soon as we fear any.

“Ideally, we want to keep playing and games on.”

Team spirit and camaraderie is so important in sport, but for the past six months the level of interaction away from the training pitch or on match day has been limited.

“It’s hard to build relationships, it’s hard to build team spirit, it’s hard to do things as a group together,” said Bonner.

“It’s the complete opposite to human nature of what we all want and need out of life, so that is tough and challenging.

“We have to keep going with it, persevere and understand life isn’t normal for anybody.

“It isn’t normal for players and I understand why we’ve got to play, why we should play and we all want to because it’s great for everybody that there is football on and there is that distraction at a weekend to watch your team play.”

Bonner is also acutely aware that players will have difficult or down days, and that it is his and the staff’s role to understand that.

“Ultimately if we can keep everybody healthy, that’s the fundamental thing,” he said.

“The second thing is the reason I signed or kept these players is because I know they’re diamonds.

“They have been outstanding. I can’t fault their attitude. I can fault performance sometimes, but that is human nature and football - it happens at every club at every level in every country. It will happen again to us this season.

“But, fundamentally, I love this group of players because as a group of lads they are absolutely brilliant. In the toughest year, they are delivering time and again.”

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