FOOTBALLERS at the region’s big three clubs are still away from their respective training grounds this week as they keep tabs on an ever-changing situation in light of the coronavirus crisis.

Players at Newcastle United, Middlesbrough and Sunderland are all being told to take the necessary precautions at home to help ease the situation in their own way.

And that means that the players, like others up and down the country, are having to work on their own fitness at home in preparation for when they are told to return to action.

The EFL, which affects Middlesbrough and Sunderland, will be largely guided by what the Premier League decides to do, with no official date pencilled in to resume the season suspended by the virus.

Newcastle made the move to shutdown their training ground in Benton, North Tyneside, for two weeks, even though no players or technical staff had shown symptoms of the illness.

With the season suspended until April 30 at the earliest, however, the Magpies’ first team complex remains closed along with the academy and that closure could be extended depending on guidance in the coming days.

Every player has been given a tailored individual exercise plan and they will be expected to stick by that, or they will be fined after monitoring should they report back out of condition.

Newcastle defender Federico Fernandez said: “Since Friday, we’ve decided to stay at home. We know what’s happened in Italy and in Spain, so we’ve stayed at home with our two kids.

“From the club, we have to do some fitness work – they’ve told us pretty clearly it’s no holiday and we need to keep working, so I’ve tried to do that at home, or outside in the garden.

“Then I love to play with the kids and stay with the family and my wife, sharing a lot of time together that sometimes can be difficult. I speak with my family in Argentina, where the virus has now started – more than 100 cases, so obviously our parents and grandparents need to take it very seriously.

“After that, there is not much to do; I just help my wife clean the house and tidy up all the toys!”

Fernandez has remained in the UK with his wife and children, which is what Middlesbrough’s foreign players have been told to do in case they get stuck abroad when the season resumes.

The squad have been told to stay away from their Rockliffe Park HQ in Hurworth, near Darlington, until Monday, March 30, but that could change again because of the fluid situation.

Initially head coach Jonathan Woodgate was intending to have the squad in this week in preparation for the visit of Queens Park Rangers on March 4.

But then the decision to put back the decision to renew football on April 30 until May 31 meant a change of approach, and now Middlesbrough are waiting like the rest of the EFL to hear what decisions the Premier League take.

Woodgate has told his players to work on fitness programmes.

In a bid to ease fans’ frustrations with the lack of football, Middlesbrough were the first club to come up with the idea of showcasing previous high profile games on YouTube, while covering the game live on social media too – right through from pre-match to post-match.

The feedback has been well received. Middlesbrough screened the UEFA Cup quarter-final victory over Basel from 2006 last Wednesday, when they were due to face Stoke City in the Championship. And on Sunday supporters watched the Carling Cup final win over Bolton from 2004, at the 2pm kick-off time it started 16 years ago. They are planning to do the same with the dramatic UEFA Cup semi-final win over Steaua Bucharest from 2006 too.

Sunderland have taken similar precautionary measures to their neighbours. The Black Cats squad has been away from the Academy of Light, Cleadon, since March 13 and there is no return date set. The training complex has been closed until furth notice.

Supporters are advised that the Stadium of Light box office and store – including online and telephone operations – will be closed from 2pm on Monday, March 23.

A statement read: “The club’s primary concern remains the safety and well-being of its staff, players, supporters and stakeholders, and these decisions have been taken with all associated with SAFC in mind. We thank you all for your continued support.”