SUPERSTARS revealing doubts about Project Restart make it easier for players at struggling clubs to express their own fears over returning to action, admits Bournemouth’s Chris Mepham.
The Cherries will begin non-contact training today — dependent on the players’ Covid-19 test results — as the Premier League continues to target a return to action next month.
But with Watford captain Troy Deeney refusing to train at his club over safety fears, and Manchester City striker Sergio Aguero admitting he and other players were ‘scared’ about returning, questions remain over any bid to resume the season.
Mepham himself has not played since January after having surgery on a knee injury and, while he wants to play football again, he admitted it is a dilemma for many players.
‘I was about to start training with the group when the virus hit,’ the former Brentford centre-back told Metro.
‘I’ve had five months without kicking a ball, I need to get back to doing that again and I know the lads feel they want to get rid of the cobwebs too.
‘But my mind has changed quite a lot on this. There is a lot at stake. If putting football back on does risk the lives of anyone, I personally don’t think it’s worth the risk. But I have no problem playing as long as it’s healthy and a safe environment for us.’
Mepham, speaking on behalf of Sporting Minds UK during Mental Health Awareness Week, welcomes high-profile players like Aguero speaking out, stressing that concerns coming from clubs at the foot of the table — like third-bottom Bournemouth — might not be taken as seriously.
‘In our players’ Whatsapp group people have expressed genuine concerns about their families — what happens if we get it and pass it on? I’m not as concerned as those with families are — it’s just me and my girlfriend here,’ he added, insisting players must be ‘protected’ from the dangers of the virus.
‘It’s good that players like Sergio Aguero have come out and been honest about the situation. When you’re down the bottom like we are, it can be dismissed as just saying things like that because of the position you’re in.’
■ Sporting Minds UK is a charity providing and promotes mental health support in young sports people. To access one-to-one support, get involved or donate go to sportingmindsuk.org