Covid-19 left me on a ventilator for four days … but I still respect the players who decided not to get bitten


I spent four days in the hospital on a ventilator, suffering from Covid, in the spring of 2020.

And I have a teammate in Birmingham, Neil Etheridge, who almost died of the disease.

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Troy Deeney reveals he spent four days in hospital last year after contracting coronavirusCredit: Le Soleil
Deeney doesn't think it should be mandatory for footballers to be doubly vaccinated

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Deeney doesn’t think it should be mandatory for footballers to be doubly vaccinatedCredit: PA

You might remember that when the Premier League restart project started I didn’t show up to train at Watford for two weeks because I was so worried if it was safe.

Remember, this was during a time when the nation was still living under lockdown restrictions and several months before there was a vaccine.

At that time, I was slaughtered by several well-known media commentators.

I’ve been told that I don’t want football to return and the season declared null and void, just so that I can protect my own salary and have another year as a Premier League player – given that Watford was in a relegation fight.

Now some of those same people say it’s a shame that not all footballers have been vaccinated – probably because the players have the same health and safety issues as me.

I was pretty seriously ill with this virus, having difficulty breathing in Watford’s last game before the lockdown against Crystal Palace and ended up in hospital.

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Yet, I have been told that my reluctance to return to training was due to personal greed.

This is always the case with footballers. We are always greedy. We are seldom considered to be human beings with the same problems as everyone else.

I’m double-bitten now and feel a lot safer. In Birmingham we are tested for Covid three times a week and in the Premier League they are put on an even stricter diet.

But I have no qualms about being skeptical and demanding all the facts before the project restarted in June of last year.

I had full and candid discussions with Dr Jonathan Van-Tam, England’s Deputy Chief Medical Officer, after he was tasked with explaining to the players how Project Restart would work.

I challenged him on certain aspects and I think he appreciated the debates we had.

I was pretty seriously ill with this virus, having difficulty breathing in Watford’s last game before the lockdown against Crystal Palace and ended up in hospital.

Troy deeney

It didn’t surprise me to learn that 25% of Football League players do not intend to get the Covid vaccine.

From my experiences, in both locker rooms I’ve been in and talking to other players, that figure seems about right.

I also don’t think the vaccine reluctance numbers in football are much different from those in society in general, especially if you break the numbers down by age and ethnicity.

I do not understand why footballers must always be at the forefront of every debate.

Just as I didn’t understand why we had to go back to work after the first wave of Covid, before most other people did, and just like we all had to automatically donate a significant chunk of our salary to fund the NHS.

Of course, the players are talking about Covid. A locker room environment is very much like a pub.

You might have a group of players having a serious debate about vaccines, while others don’t want to get involved.

Soon after I arrived in Birmingham in the summer there were long conversations about vaccines. Sometimes the debate got quite heated.

Some players, like other young people, believe that because they are fit and healthy, they are invincible and do not need a shot.

And some footballers, like other members of society, are influenced by scary stories and conspiracy theories on social media and the internet.

Deeney left Watford this summer after 11 years at Vicarage Road

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Deeney left Watford this summer after 11 years at Vicarage RoadCredit: Getty
Deeney has four goals and three assists in 16 league games this term

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Deeney has four goals and three assists in 16 league games this termCredit: Getty

Additionally, I think we are getting mixed messages from the Prime Minister when it comes to Covid. I prefer to listen to scientists, who make a lot more sense.

I’m doubly trapped and I think it’s the right thing to do. But I also think we have to respect personal choice.

In Birmingham we had a group of players, maybe 20 or so, who got trapped or had reserved jabs, and a smaller group, say about five, who didn’t want to be vaccinated.

When we debated it, we got to the point where I said, ‘Are we saying we don’t want nothing to do with these players who are not vaccinated? That we didn’t want to approach them? We want to exclude them from the group? ‘

And we unanimously agreed that it didn’t, that those who didn’t want to get bitten were entitled to their own choices.

This question of whether or not players are vaccinated has come to light now that a series of Premier League and EFL games have been postponed last week due to the growing number of Covid cases.

Some players, like other young people, believe that because they are fit and healthy, they are invincible and do not need a shot.

Troy deeney

There is talk of the NFL making vaccines mandatory for all players. I don’t think I agree with that, although it would make the situation clearer.

I would be happy if there was more transparency on the number of positive players for Covid before a game is canceled. The rules seem very unclear and open to accusations of favoritism as they stand.

I’ve heard people say that with Covid so prevalent in football, we should have a ‘breaker’ and cancel all games, maybe until mid-January.

It would only make sense if we could guarantee that everything would be clear after such a break – and it is not.

Covid is something we’ll have to live with – in football and around the world – probably for a few more years at least.

Once the restart of the project took place – and football became an exception when most people were still in lockdown – I always thought we would never have another full game shutdown again.

The show must go on, the show will go on. And footballers will continue to have different views on vaccines, just like everyone else.

We can continue to try to reason with people who are reluctant to get vaccinated.

But I am not in favor of humiliating or avoiding footballers, or anyone else, who have chosen not to get stung.

A number of recent Premier League games have been postponed due to Covid

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A number of recent Premier League games have been postponed due to CovidCredit: Getty

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