Nigel Pearson revealed that two more Watford players have been forced into isolation because family members have coronavirus.
Premier League clubs returned to training in small groups this week, although Watford boss Pearson’s plans have been hit by a series of complications.
Defender Adrian Mariappa and two members of staff recorded positive results in the first tests and three others are thought to have opted out of training for personal reasons, including captain Troy Deeney, who cited concerns about the health of one of his children.
‘We’ve had several players not available for different reasons,’ said Pearson, after Watford extended a private testing programme to the families of players and staff and discovered this ruled out two more, which means six of his squad are absent.
‘One player through testing positive, two more because they’ve been in close contact with somebody else — even though their own tests came back negative — and we have the players who decided not to come in. That shows the complications we’ve got. I don’t intend to reveal names.’
Watford’s players and staff were tested for a second time on Friday, with the number of individual tests increased from 40 to 50, and have been told to expect the results this weekend.
There are plans to test again on Monday and have the results back before the Premier League meet on Wednesday to discuss the next step of Project Restart.
The aim is to be playing again within four weeks.
‘Possibly,’ said Pearson (below) when asked if he expected this timescale to be accurate, but he warned of problems, including an increase in muscle injuries when players step up training to full contact.
He added: ‘I find it awkward to talk about football when we’ve got so many fatalities.
‘We’re working towards playing again. But it’s got to be timed right and done for the right reasons. You can’t compromise people’s health. That is a concern for some players and I respect their views.’
One of the fears among players is that those from black and ethnic minority backgrounds may be more vulnerable to coronavirus.
‘They still don’t have enough assurances,’ said Pearson, who has taken his own precautions by moving his 86-year-old father out of the family home in South Yorkshire, having moved him in at the start of the lockdown.
‘I’m back at work and my circle of contact has gone from five or six to about 50. It’s no longer safe for my dad to be living with us. So, he’s gone home.
‘The most important thing for me is the health of myself and my family. Am I at greater risk by coming back to work? Probably yes, a bit. Do I feel safe at work? We’re taking every precaution we can and the players and staff have been fantastic this week.’
Meanwhile, Premier League chief Richard Masters has said crowds of fans turning up at stadiums when football resumes is ‘a concern’.
Masters said the Premier League wants ‘to play out the season as much as possible at home and away venues’ and added: ‘We’re talking to the authorities about that. But I believe we can appeal to fans not to congregate outside grounds.’
He also recognises the need for ‘contingency plans’ and said ‘curtailment is still a possibility’, meaning the season would be stopped.