By ITV News Sports Producer Dan Salisbury-Jones
A Premier League captain, who was integral to setting up the Players Together fund for the NHS, has told ITV News about his fears for his own family working on the front line.
Norwich City and Scotland defender Grant Hanley, who was part of the initial talks with Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson, will know more than most how much of a difference their money will make.
His mother Linda is a sonographer and his sister Kim is a radiographer in his hometown of Dumfries.
Hanley told ITV News: “I can’t express how proud I am of them. It’s obviously very tough and it’s a situation that no one has been in before."
He added: "For family, first of all it’s worrying as well, your family comes first and you want your family to be safe and be well. It’s definitely something that’s close to my heart and definitely something I’m proud to be a part of.
“You’ve got to remember we’re not doing this because we want people to say “oh you’re good lads” we’re doing this because it’s coming from the heart and it’s what we want to do.”
The talks were well underway before various politicians, including the Health Sectretary Matt Hancock, started calling on footballers to contribute more.
It must be tempting for Hanley to lash out at what now look like ill-informed comments but instead he’s treated it like criticism on the pitch.
He said: “For me, I’m not going to sit here and name names and call people out because I think as a footballer, first and foremost, you’ve got to remain professional and also you’ve got to have thick skin.
"Footballers get criticised every single week and I think that’s part and parcel of being in this game and being in this industry, people have got opinions.
"For me especially it’s just about remaining professional, doing what you think it right and is going to make the biggest difference."
The Players Together fund is likely to raise 10s of millions of pounds and will use NHS Charities Together as a vehicle to get the cash to where it is most needed.
Hanley said: “A lot of credit has got to go towards Jordan Henderson, he won’t mind me saying, he’s the driving force behind it and the lads got around each other and got speaking, which in this day and age is not too difficult to do.
"I’m just glad that I can play my part, bring my squad together, the lads I play with and work with in to being part of something that’s going to make a difference to the nation and to people’s lives."
Football clubs have also been vital on a local level during the coronavirus crisis. Hanley and his teammates were eager to help as soon as they were not allowed to play.
He said: “We wanted to help but government guidelines and the way circumstances are you can’t get out the house and really get hands on so we had to be creative to see what we could do.
"So first of all we were phoning round some of our elderly season ticket holders and seeing if there was anything we could do to help and sometimes it was even just a phonecall."
Hanley added: "It was actually really humbling - it made you appreciate the position you were in to see the reaction from some of the fans.
"Then we came up with the idea to help the Community Sports Foundation here to see if we could raise a bit of money within the group and the staff that could be put towards helping people that need it more than us.
"That was probably the bare minimum we could do because we all know how big a part the club plays in the community and how important it is to the city."