Watford midfielder Cleverley keen on Deeney rejoining relegation fight

It’s so safe, Troy! Watford midfielder Tom Cleverley is keen for club skipper Deeney to rejoin their fight against Premier League relegation

  • Tom Cleverley has revealed he felt safe in the first phase of returning to training 
  • But he believes the coming week when full contact resumes will be the real test
  • Cleverley is adamant there would be no sense of injustice if Watford go down
  • The midfielder will be as encouraging as possible if players seek his opinion 

Watford are up for the challenge of fighting for their Premier League survival even without their captain Troy Deeney, says team-mate Tom Cleverley.

‘We have to back ourselves as a squad,’ said the Watford midfielder. ‘The odds, from where I’m standing, is that the season is going to go ahead. We are going to prepare for that. Even if it means playing without some of our best players, we have to back ourselves.

‘We’ve got a great squad here and we’re confident. We were in good form when the season stopped. We have no problems about continuing and proving that we deserve to be in this league.’

Tom Cleverley says Watford are up for the challenge of fighting for their Premier League status

Cleverley has felt safe in training this week, although some of his team-mates, including Deeney, have yet to return. The Watford captain is staying away because his infant son has respiratory problems. The first phase of the return was training in small groups while maintaining social distancing.

Cleverley says the coming week, when full contact training resumes, will be the real test of whether the Premier League can re-start.

‘I was one of the more comfortable ones with returning to training. I fully understand that everyone’s circumstances are different and we took the decision as a squad to respect everyone’s individual decisions.

‘But I wanted to come in, see how phase one was going to work and, if anything, it has made me feel even more comfortable. It’s well organised, it’s safe. There are still questions to be answered about phase two and three but as far as phase one goes it’s been fine.’

The Watford midfielder has felt safe in training as the first phase of training returned this week

But Watford captain Deeney is staying away because his infant son has respiratory problems

Cleverley is adamant there would be no sense of injustice about the unique circumstances should Watford be relegated.

‘I can’t sit here and say that,’ he said. ‘Absolutely not. I’ve preached about how no excuses is the mentality from now on in.

‘If worst comes to the worst, it’s because we’ve not been good enough as a squad. Even if you were missing two or three players through anxieties, that’s why you have a 25-man squad. And as a squad we would not have been good enough over 38 games. 

‘That is the absolute worst-case scenario and hopefully it doesn’t get to that. But there will be no excuses coming from me or, I suspect, any of my team-mates. 

Cleverley says the coming week, when full contact training resumes, will be the real test

‘You start on a level with everyone in a 38-game season and I suppose this is the same thing. We have to finish higher than three other teams in a nine-game mini season, it’s as simple as that.’

Though a few team-mates have joined Deeney in missing the early training sessions, Cleverley is hopeful that his captain will play when matches resume in late June.

‘I don’t know what stance Troy is taking, whether he’s ruled it out or if he’s one of those who comes under: ‘Let me see how safe it is first, then I’ll return’.

‘I don’t think we should create much anxiety that we are going to miss him for games just yet. We would want him available. He’s a big leader for us, both on and off the pitch.

‘But we’re not worried about him missing the first week’s training. He’s a fitness freak anyway. He’s got a gym at home, he will be keeping his fitness up. There’s absolutely no problem that he’s taken the decision to watch from arm’s length for the minute.’

Cleverley is adamant there would be no sense of injustice should Watford be relegated

Cleverley fears that if a raft of players withdraw it may be a problem, but he is hopeful it won’t come to that. ‘Jamie Redknapp was talking about this and it makes sense. 

‘If you are missing five or six of your players through personal circumstances, it’s going to hit us hard and it does affect the integrity of the competition. You can’t really just say: ‘That’s bad luck, get on with it,’ when so much is at stake. 

‘But the players have got to take it day by day. Hopefully, if the league does continue, we’ll have all our best players and a full-strength squad to pick from. If it’s not the case, then we will have to deal with it. It’s got to be a ‘no-excuses’ mentality from now until the end of the season.’

Taking the coronavirus test, which involves a nasal swab, is more uncomfortable than Cleverley anticipated.

But Cleverley is hopeful that his captain will play them fight when matches resume in late June

‘It is unpleasant,’ he says. ‘I wasn’t ready for how unpleasant it is, but we are in a privileged position to be able to get tested twice a week. There’s no complaints. But I don’t look forward to it.’

The Watford midfielder will be as encouraging as possible, given the sensitivities involved, should Deeney or any other team-mates seek his opinion about the safety of training. 

‘I would say I have come into contact with as many people as I would going to the supermarket or going for a morning jog around my estate,’ he says. ‘I would talk him through the details and tell him exactly what my 90-minute period in the training ground looks like.

The former Manchester United midfielder revealed that the coronavirus test is ‘unpleasant’

‘I also understand the BAME [Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic] players who are high risk. Some people have family members with other issues. So all I can do is say my opinion.

‘There have been a couple who have had doubts and players are slowly starting to filter back. That’s fine. They are in higher-risk categories or have family in high-risk categories so it’s understandable and if they took the view of ‘let me get the opinions from other players first as to how it’s working’ then I can only be positive about it. I’m sure that was the case at many other clubs. Maybe it’s a bit more public at our club.

‘Every player wants to get back on the pitch. But some have anxieties about how safe it is to do so and that’s fair enough. Me and the rest of the team are looking forward to playing again.’

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JONATHAN WALTERS: Why always kick players and not the mega rich?

JONATHAN WALTERS – PLAYER’S VIEW: Why always kick players and not the rest of the mega rich? No one ever seems to mention what football contributes to the economy

  • Matt Hancock marginalised footballers by telling them to ‘play their part’
  • Football seems to be the only sport where people want to talk about salaries 
  • Footballers earn huge wages but don’t forget how much of that gets taxed
  • The average Premier League player pays £1.4m a year towards public services

Why is it always Premier League footballers who get singled out? To hear the Health Secretary Matt Hancock call on players to ‘play their part’ really got my back up. I understand he was responding to a question under pressure and I would like to think that if he had time to think about his answer he wouldn’t have marginalised footballers in such a public way.

Premier League stars have a stigma. Whenever there is a story about a player it always comes with the word ‘millionaire’ or says how much they get paid a week. We all know footballers are on large salaries, that is what the market dictates. I am not defending that but it seems to be the only sport where people want to talk about it. You don’t hear it about Formula One drivers, or about golf or tennis players, and certainly not with such contempt.

By saying what he said, Hancock just added to this stigma. No one ever seems to mention what football actually contributes to the economy, not only by way of players’ taxes but throughout the sport.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock publicly marginalised players by urging them to take pay cuts

People have called on footballers to take wage cuts, and it looks as though Premier League clubs are going to discuss this with their players.

This raises an interesting dilemma. The majority of players are paid through the PAYE system. I always was — I never had any image rights. That’s 45 per cent tax plus national insurance. Nearly half of what they earn goes to the Treasury.

The average Premier League player earns about £3million a year. So, around £1.4m of that is tax, which goes to the NHS, the police, public services. Let’s say that player takes an 80 per cent pay cut, just to exaggerate the example. He then earns £600,000 a year with only £270,000 of tax.

Spread that across 500 players and that’s the difference between £700m and £135m going to essential services.

It would be better for players to donate their wages, as Manchester United have done

I think it would be better for players to donate their wages, as Manchester United have done, rather than take a pay cut. That way the players know the money is going directly to the services that need it. It would also be good to know that it’s the players looking after those in need rather than others doing it on their behalf.

Pay cuts are not going directly to the people who need it. It is going back to the owners and into their coffers.

It is the clubs who are furloughing staff, not the players. The value of clubs over the last 10 years has rocketed. Owners are getting richer and richer yet it is they who are laying off staff or calling on the Government to pay 80 per cent of their wages. It’s not the players doing that.

The PFA does a lot of good and I know for certain has been working non-stop behind the scenes. There is a chance in here somewhere for the PFA to unite players across the Premier League and down the football pyramid, not as individuals but as a collective.

Stoke deserve praise after saying they would keep paying all non-playing staff until August

I want to applaud my old club Stoke, who before any Government schemes came out, said they would keep paying all non-playing staff until August. 

My first thought as a player in this situation would always have been that we need to look after the heart of the club. The kitchen staff, grounds people and security staff. You spend more time with these people than your own family.

This crisis has brought out the best and the worst of people. It has shown a lot of people’s true colours. Those who are helping the most in need and those who are taking huge bonuses and laying people off. When we are through this, we must not forget how people treated others.

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