HONEST Stoke City star Jordan Cousins feels safe returning to training, but understands BAME players’ coronavirus fears
Stoke City midfielder Jordan Cousins insists he has felt safe returning to training this week.
Championship clubs resumed non-contact training on Monday for the first time since coronavirus suspended second tier football in mid-March.
Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) players, including Watford captain Troy Deeney and Charlton midfielder Darren Pratley, have expressed fears over coming back during the pandemic.
Earlier this month, the Office for National Statistics announced black men and women are almost twice as likely to die from the disease as white people in the UK.
Deeney did not link up with the Watford squad last week, while Pratley called the idea of playing football ‘frightening’ as they sought to get more assurances over the safety around the sport’s return.
Cousins, who joined Stoke from QPR last summer, respects their views, but is happy to be back doing what he loves.
The 26-year-old told talkSPORT.com: “I definitely, 100 per cent respect and understand their fears because everyone’s situation is different.
“People have children and some people live with people who have underlying health issues.
“It could be fatal if the wrong person picks up the virus. So I totally understand where they’re coming from.
“If I had a teammate who had any reservations, I would 100 per cent respect it and I couldn’t say a bad word towards that.
“I know my club aren’t forcing anyone to come back. Everyone is coming back under their free will.
“It’s been good to go back and train and just get back into some routine. It’s been highly enjoyable.”
On Thursday, Blackburn captain Elliott Bennett and two unnamed Fulham players tested positive for coronavirus in the latest round of testing in the Championship.
The testing of 1,030 players and staff took place at the start of this week.
Asked if he shared any concerns over returning to training, Cousins, who lives alone, said: “No, I’ve stuck to the rules, I’ve got my hand sanitiser, I’m washing my hands.
“I’m doing everything I possibly can to make sure I haven’t got the virus. We’ve been tested already since we came back and I’ve had negative results back.
“It’s been a bit different and weird when we had the first drive-in on Friday to come and get tested.
“But everything has run like clockwork in terms of the set-up of training. I’m in the same group of five every day.
“It’s meticulous how it works, everybody’s coming in every half an hour and everybody is going from station to station.
“You can see a teammate, but you’re not crossing paths with him. Everything is on a one-way system from when you come in and park your car to when you finish your session and leave.
“There’s a lot of effort put in to it, but it’s all to keep everybody safe and I think the club are doing the most they can and sticking to the guidelines.
“For me, it’s nice to go back in and enjoy some sort of training. It’s not full contact training, but you can’t beat going into training and practising with your coaches. The sessions have been really intense.”
Stoke were three points above the Championship relegation zone when coronavirus put a hold on the action.
And Cousins is in full support of the 2019/20 season resuming – as long as positive coronavirus tests remain low.
He said: “If the testing continues and the number of people getting tested positive stays considerably low, then I’d be perfectly fine.
“For me, when I go out and train, those kind of doubts in the back of your head go because you’re so focused on training and playing football.
“So, as long as everything’s safe and everyone’s having the adequate testing then I don’t see a problem going back and completing the season.
“I’m all safe and trying to stay positive. I know a lot of people are going through tough situations with coronavirus.
“It’s easy for me to say in the position I’m in, but I try to keep everyone around me positive because there is always light at the end of the tunnel.”