Billy Sharp: Players proud to help NHS during coronavirus pandemic

Billy Sharp
Billy Sharp's Sheffield United had been heading towards European qualification when the Premier League season was suspended

Sheffield United captain Billy Sharp says Premier League players are "proud to be helping such a great cause" after setting up a fund to support the National Health Service.

The initiative - named #PlayersTogether - has been established to "help those fighting for us on the NHS frontline" amid the coronavirus pandemic.

"They are putting their health at risk to help. They don’t get enough credit and they don’t get paid enough money," Sharp told BBC Radio 5 Live.

"We are going to try to raise as much money as we can for the people who need it most."

Sharp, 34, and the other 19 Premier League captains discussed their plans to help out over networking apps WhatsApp and Zoom.

The level of contributions has not been announced but the players said the initiative would help "quickly grant funds to the NHS frontline".

Health secretary Matt Hancock had called for players to "play their part" and take a pay cut before the plan was revealed - but Sharp says they were already discussing their options.

"It was being talked about well before Matt Hancock decided to shout his mouth off about footballers," Sharp said.

"But it’s his opinion and maybe a lot of other people’s opinion. Footballers get a lot of stick but we are mentally tough.

"You’ve got to be thick-skinned. Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson is a big part of it but all the captains came together on a video call and we had it in hand before it all came out.

"It took a lot of planning to be honest. You can’t just come up with it in a few days - we wanted it to be right. We wanted to help the NHS and frontline workers, the people who are right now in this situation.

"Players do things all the time without publicity. Not everybody knows our private lives. It’s not just kicking a ball, we do try to help people."

Premier League football has been postponed indefinitely because of the spread of coronavirus.

You can listen to the full interview on 5 Live Sport on Sunday with Steve Crossman from 13:00 BST. The show also includes interviews with former Chelsea defender Frank Leboeuf and European football experts Guillem Balague and Julien Laurens.