Watford manager Nigel Pearson will not force players to return to training after Troy Deeney refused to return following the COVID-19 pandemic.
Premier League clubs and officials agreed on Monday that small group training would resume this week with the aim of finishing the 2019-20 campaign this summer.
That was stage one of ‘Project Restart’, which will allow a maximum of five players per group undergoing non-contact training for a maximum of 75 minutes.
Players at German Bundesliga and 2. Bundesliga did the same five weeks before they resumed their campaigns this past weekend.
Watford striker Deeney has been one of the most outspoken players on the topic, refusing to go back to training whilst the working environment isn’t safe.
Speaking to Eddie Hearn and Tony Bellew on the Talk the Talk YouTube show, Deeney said:
“We’re due back in this week, I’ve said I’m not going in.
“It only takes one person to get infected within the group and I don’t want to be bringing that home.
“My son is only five months old, he had breathing difficulties, so I don’t want to come home to put him in more danger.”
On Tuesday it was also revealed that Watford were responsible for three of the six positive coronavirus tests in the Premier League. This was centre-back Adrian Mariappa and two staff.
Watford sit outside of the relegation zone on goal difference with nine games to play, whilst Aston Villa two points below them, have a game in hand.
Prior to the league’s suspension on 13 March, Troy Deeney had been the club’s top goalscorer this season, with six goals. Mariappa had featured in 15 league games (13 starts).
But manager Nigel Pearson isn’t going to force any of his players to attend training if they don’t want to. Speaking to Sky Sports on Tuesday, the Hornets boss said:
“I spoke to [Deeney] yesterday. He is fine and I know he is in good physical shape.
“I don’t want to talk too much about individuals but every player or member of staff that it affects in different ways we have to respects players’ views on returning.
“I have spoken to players who have chosen at the moment that that is their stance and we abide with what we have already said to them and we respect their decision.”
So far there is no date agreed for the resumption of the 2019-20 Premier League season. 12 June had originally been floated around but this now looks unlikely with how late players have been allowed to go back to training. The following week or the final weekend of June seems a more realistic aim.
Should the season resume, Watford’s next Premier League game would be home to Champions League chasing Leicester City at Vicarage Road.