COVID-19 has affected us all but footballers don’t deserve special treatment

Nobody can guarantee total safety from COVID-19 for elite football players when they return to full training and competitive matches in the near future. But then the same goes for people working on public transport, construction sites and other areas of industry which are continuing to operate amid the current crisis.

It seems that some players believe that the Premier League is responsible for guaranteeing their safety. I’m sorry, but in life (just like in football!) there are no guarantees.

There are inherent risks in any sport. You are at more risk of suffering life threatening injuries in a Formula One race or a boxing match then you are in a football match but it is almost unheard of for a football match to be completed without a player on one of the teams picking up some sort of injury.

We have even seen players like Marc-Vivien Foé and Cheick Tioté collapse and die during football matches or training. Fortunately these type of tragedies are very rare but they remind us that even a relatively safe sport like football there are serious risks.

As a player I was virtually fearless but as I get older I have taken a much more careful approach towards managing the risk of injury. At my age the recovery time is much slower than it is for a footballer in their prime, and I am conscious of the risk of suffering an injury that would stop me getting out on the pitch to coach, or even going to the gym or playing golf in my spare time.

I don’t think players today are less brave then they were in my day, the game is just played at a faster pace so they have to be much more careful about deciding when and where to challenge hard. But I do think their lives are very different to ours because they started earning big money at such a young age, as well as being the subject of intense media scrutiny.

Perhaps living in this sort of ‘bubble’ where you use your wealth to shield you from public scrutiny away from the pitch gives players a different idea of what constitutes an acceptable risk than say a builder of bus driver. But I don’t believe that professional footballers should be protected more than people in other professions.

The sheer amount of money involved in the Premier League means that players will inevitably get better protection from COVID-19, and better medical treatment if they do contract it, then people in other professions that aren’t generating millions in revenue every week.

The no expense spared approach towards the care of Premier League players under the ‘football restart’ initiative should be more than enough to assure them. Yes it’s easy for me to say because I won’t be playing for either of my former Premier League clubs, Brighton or Spurs.

I’ve not been privy to all the meetings and discussions which are ongoing. However if construction sites are operating, the trains, tubes and buses are running and people in many other fields of work are taking similar risks on a daily basis then I don’t see why football, or sport in general, should be treated any differently.

There will be some difficult decisions to make in the coming days and weeks. But we all want to see the Premier League back on our screens, even if fans won’t be able to attend games for a while.

Harry Kane should think twice about leaving Tottenham

Leaving a club to further your playing ambitions can be fraught with problems … especially if you’re the team’s captain and top goalscorer and come through the clubs academy.

I was never in that position and I never wanted to move on from my clubs, on four out of four occasions they moved me on. A player of Harry Kane’s talent deserves to win trophies so I could understand if he wanted to leave, and if Tottenham decide they want to sell him it will be almost impossible or him to stay.

The key for Harry Kane, if he does depart, is to do so in a way that ensures he can remain a hero for the Spurs fans forever. He doesn’t want to end up being hated in the way Sol Campbell was following his acrimonious departure from the club.

Campbell came through the academy, just like Kane, and became a truly great first team player for nine seasons at White Hart Lane. The important thing is for Kane to be open and honest with the club if he does want to go.

That way Spurs should receive a record breaking transfer fee to compensate for the loss of their brilliant goal scorer. The process should be as transparent as possible and the club and player need to be up front with the fans about what is going on.

It’s why Spurs fans are so hostile towards Sol Campbell, they feel there was a lack of honesty leading up to his 2001 departure. Fans felt deceived because he left on a free transfer having run down his contract after implying he would sign a new deal.

Spurs missed out on getting a transfer fee for Campbell but the player and his agent were the chief beneficiaries. I’ve worked in the media with Sol and have no issues with him but I would not want to be in his shoes no matter how much money he made just because of the sheer level of hatred he has had to deal with over the years.

I am fortunate enough to have a good relationship with all the clubs I played for and am always made very welcome if I want to go back to watch a game or whatever. That definitely wouldn’t be the case for Campbell and Michael Owen is another player who I don’t think feels particularly welcome at his boyhood club because he went on to play for Man Utd.

Harry Kane is a class act on and off the pitch and I believe he will show integrity with whatever negotiations are approaching. But I would urge him to think carefully about his next move, because he will be a legend for life at Tottenham if he does the right thing.

That doesn’t necessarily mean staying, although it would be refreshing to see that there were still one club men at the pinnacle of the modern game in the mold of a Totti or Maldini or Gerrard (I don’t think any Liverpool fans would hold his stint in MLS against him!). But if he does move he should think carefully about where he wants to go.

I don’t think Spurs fans would hold it against him if Kane decided to move to Spain or Italy in order to pursue his dream of winning the top honours. But I do think it would leave a sour taste among supporters if he left for a Premier League rival like Man Utd.

It was an honour for me to be invited to the grand opening of the new Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. It is 30 years since I Iast played for the first team but the bond that I still have with the club and its supporters means a lot to me.

Whatever Harry Kane does next, and I hope it is to commit his long term future to Spurs, he should think carefully about what that relationship means to him and whether any amount of money could be enough to destroy it.