London: The manager of English Premier League strugglers Newcastle United said on Thursday the north-east side were making plans for the return of two key African players amid growing fears of Ebola.
Ivory Coast midfielder Cheick Tiote and Senegal striker Papiss Cisse were both due to return to Newcastle on Thursday after playing in qualifying matches for the Africa Cup of Nations, with the finals due to be staged in Morocco from January 17 to February 8.
There are concerns that they may have been put at risk of exposure to the Ebola virus while on international duty, but Newcastle manager Alan Pardew said the club were taking steps to protect the players and those around them.
"We would be naive not have concerns," said Pardew, with the Ebola death toll in West Africa now nearing 4,500.
"We have a strategy for when they return and making sure they and their families are taken care of.
"They (Tiote and Cisse) are essential to us and our doctor has looked into the problems that might arise and also protection for them, and to make sure we do our very best to help them."
Tiote was a member of the Ivorian side which played a double-header against the Democratic Republic of Congo, while Senegal faced Tunisia home and away.
Borussia Dortmund manager Jurgen Klopp has questioned whether the Africa Cup of Nations can go ahead in the current climate and a cautious Pardew said: "That`s something that will play out as we go along.
"That kind of decision is a big, big one and I`m sure the countries will make that rather than club managers.
"It`s something to be concerned about and we have to be on our guard."