Steve Bruce and Raheem Sterling say Premier League should not resume before end of June
Bruce says squad are largely happy with measures put in place for safe return to training; Sterling: "You can't come back in with one-and-a-half or two weeks (of training)."
Last Updated: 17/05/20 6:27pm
Steve Bruce and Raheem Sterling have warned players may not be fit enough to resume the Premier League season until the end of next month.
Newcastle manager Bruce has joined Watford counterpart Nigel Pearson in voicing concerns about Project Restart and a targeted return date in mid-June, ahead of Monday's expected vote on a return to training in small groups with social distancing.
UEFA are hopeful major European league can finish by the end of July but should the Premier League not resume until late June it would be difficult to complete the remaining 92 league games in time.
"We've listened to what has been said and, with the precautions taken, we will get back to work and start phase one," Bruce told The Telegraph.
"Can we get to that stage where we can have all the players on the pitch together? We don't know yet.
"Phase one will be mainly fitness work, four or five players on a pitch. Let's see how we get on [and hope there are no infections]."
Speaking in an interview with US women captain Megan Rapinoe on his Youtube channel, Manchester City winger Sterling said: "You can't come back in with one-and-a-half or two weeks (of training).
"You'd need a full four to five weeks, especially if you're going to go back into competition, when you're literally paid to win and it's going to count for something. You do need to do that preparation - you can't just go straight in."
The Premier League has been suspended since March 13 due to the coronavirus pandemic and Bruce says there are widespread concerns from managers over how quickly players are expected to find recover full fitness.
He added: "We need enough preparation time 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."
Bruce revealed his squad are due to undergo testing on Sunday and should the results all come back negative then the side will return to training following their two-month break on Tuesday.
A meeting of Premier League captains was held last Wednesday and Bruce says his squad are relaxed about a return to training but he insisted players deserve respect should they opt to stay at home.
Bruce said: "If a player refuses to come in or play, I have sympathy for that and would understand it. Most of my players are happy with it.
"There was a captain's meeting the other day as well and as a squad they are happy with the measures that are being put in place. You have to respect everybody's personal views on it."
Supplement: Does Bruce have a point?
Sunday Times football correspondent Jonathan Northcroft speaking on the Sunday Supplement...
"He has a big point. This is one of the big obstacles. I do think that June 12 date may be the first thing to go in Monday's Premier League meeting.
"The end of June sounds more realistic to me. June 26, which is now being mooted, looks a more realistic date for a restart.
"This will be a four to five-week period of packed fixtures, so injury risks are going to be a big problem."
Premier League clubs will hold their latest emergency conference call on 'Project Restart' on Monday. Sky Sports News' chief reporter Bryan Swanson answers the key questions...
Is a return to training close?
Yes, but clubs are required to agree to Premier League protocols.
A vote will be required over the first phase of training - small groups with social distancing - and nothing more advanced.
At least 14 clubs must approve these new measures.
If the majority of clubs agree on Monday's conference call, players can return to a sterile non-contact environment later in the week. It's important to stress: This is about the first phase of training and nothing further than that.
A return to training, on a socially distanced basis, has been discussed this week between club captains, managers, the Professional Footballers' Association [PFA] and League Managers Association [LMA], and concerns have been raised by some senior players.
Clubs had to conduct a COVID-19 focused occupational health risk assessment by Friday [May 15], record its results and make those results available to the Premier League on request.
In a draft document seen by Sky Sports News, each club must ensure that, before any player or staff attends the training ground, they have provided written confirmation that they have received the terms of the club's Covid-19 operational policy.