Troy Deeney has spoken about the abuse he and his family have suffered after he expressed concerns about the safety of the return of the Premier League.
The Watford captain recently said he felt questions about coronavirus safety had not been adequately answered, particularly those around increased illness rates among black and minority ethnic (BAME) people.
Deeney hasn’t yet returned to training but is reportedly expected to link up with his team-mates next week, with clubs having approved the return of full-contact sessions.
The 31-year-old says people have had little sympathy for footballers set to be returning to an environment where plenty have admitted they may not feel fully safe.
“I saw some comments in regards to my son, people saying: ‘I hope your son gets corona’,” Deeney told CNN.
“That’s the hard part for me. If you respond to that, people then go: ‘Ah, we’ve got him’ and they keep doing it.
“In a time where it’s all about mental health and everyone says ‘speak up, speak out, please speak’, Danny Rose spoke out and I spoke out and we just get absolutely hammered and battered for it.
“So, people see that and go ‘woah’ and it’s not just us that gets it, the missus gets direct messages and you’ll be walking down the street and people will be like: ‘Oh, I’m at work, you go back to work’.”
Despite Deeney’s concerns, the return of the Premier League seems increasingly inevitable with the league, clubs, broadcasters and the UK government all keen to see play get back underway.
Deeney has spoken with England’s deputy chief medical officer, Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, about the safety measures which will be in place.
“He’s been doing very, very good research and there is a lot of goodwill on his part to tell me, ultimately, that I’m going to be looked after as best as they can and, ultimately, there is going to be some form of risk for all of us going back to work,” Deeney added.
“Lockdown and the social distancing measures coming down mean people will still always have risk.”
Liverpool left-back Andy Robertson says team-mates who had been nervous about returning to training had had their anxiety calmed by the stringent safety measures which have been put in place.