I hope your son gets Coronavirus — Deeney reveals social threats

Watford captain Troy Deeney in this file photo.

LONDON — In an exclusive interview with CNN Sport contributor Darren Lewis, Watford captain Troy Deeney spoke out on the abuse he has faced following his decision not to return to Phase One training.

Deeney reveals to CNN he’s faced abusive comments in the street and online after outlining his concerns and desire to protect his five-month-old son, who has had breathing difficulties, from COVID-19.

Deeney talks to Lewis about social media abuse in relation to his son, and the impact this period has had on his mental health.

Deeney also shares an insight into how footballers responded to Matt Hancock’s comments about Premier League players taking a pay cut and whether he feels the integrity of the league has been jeopardized during this period.

The excerpts:

On the abuse he and his family have suffered on social media and in person following his decision not to return to training:

"In a time where it's all about mental health and everyone says: ‘Speak up, speak out, please speak,’... For example, Danny Rose spoke out, and I spoke out and we just get absolutely hammered and battered for it. It's not just us that gets it. My 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.' And I’ll be like: ‘I didn’t make you go back to work.’ I saw some comments in regards to my son, people saying: 'I hope your son gets corona[virus].’, That's the hard part for me. Whilst I’m trying to be a better human being, anyone that knows my past knows it’s very hard for me to ignore things like that. Do I think it’s ok? Not at all. Do I think there’s a lot more that social media could do and should do? Yes. Will they? Probably not. I can keep banging the drum and hopefully one day somebody will listen.”

On whether the integrity of the Premier League will be jeopardized by further players testing positive for COVID-19:

“I believe personally that when it when it comes to the integrity of this this season anyway, it's all it's already gone. I feel sorry for Liverpool. And because no matter how it plays out, they deserve to win the league. They deserve to get the trophy... Even if we play all the games, it's still going to be the year about the pandemic. It's not going to be that year that Liverpool won the league being the best team.”

On how footballers responded to Matt Hancock’s, comments in early April, calling on Premier League players to “play their part” and take a pay cut:

“We were already talking about giving a donation as players, those conversations were already in the pipeline and it just escalated due to somebody deciding that they wanted to throw footballers under the bus. How we feel sometimes is: 'There's a crisis, let's go to the footballers.' So, it's the NHS, it could be anything... You never see that Lewis Hamilton, you don’t see boxers, you never see the same amount of pressure put on these guys [that] is put on footballers. The politician that said that we should be doing more was posed with the question: 'Could he give up some of his money?' And he said he's gonna work harder. So that was that was nice to hear.”

On why he decided not to return to Phase One training:

“My concerns were purely for family reasons. I have a five-month-old son who's got breathing difficulties. So, for me, I needed more questions answered, with a bit more authority and at the start, they couldn't really do that. Not for any reason or lack of want [of trying], it just because they didn't have the information... I've been fortunate enough to speak to Professor Jonathan van Tam, who works with the government. He's been doing very, very good research and a lot of good will 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. Lockdown [ending] and the social distancing measures coming down mean people will still always have risk” — CNN Sport