Northern Ireland star Gavin Whyte has spoken about his relief at being back home in Belfast with his family rather than being alone in Cardiff during the coronavirus pandemic.
Whyte says he was delighted when Cardiff City manager Neil Harris gave him permission to fly to Northern Ireland last month and has discussed why it is so important for everyone to support the NHS at this difficult time, insisting that football matches should only return when it is completely safe to do so.
The gifted 24-year-old Cardiff winger is living in the Markets area with his mum Patricia, partner Alex and their four-year-old daughter Lily.
He said: "I have been home for the last two weeks and I am so pleased and relieved about that. I think it would have been hard for me to be on my own over in Cardiff so when the manager allowed me to come back to Belfast to be with my family I really appreciated it.
"Obviously when you are a footballer you want to get out and play but it is good to spend so much time with my family because you normally never have the chance to do that during the season."
Whyte says that even before the coronavirus outbreak he had huge respect and love for the NHS because of how they cared for his daughter when she was born prematurely, adding that everyone must rally around the "heroic" health workers.
"I took my daughter outside our house last week to applaud the NHS because what they are doing throughout this crisis is incredible," said Whyte.
"The whole street was out in the Markets. I know all over the country people were showing their appreciation.
"It is good to see the NHS workers finally receiving the credit they deserve.
"They are saving lives and helping so many people day in, day out in the toughest of circumstances."
Whyte continued: “I will always be grateful to the NHS because of the care they gave our daughter, who was born prematurely. They are true heroes and should always be thanked for the amazing work they do.”
While in Belfast, Whyte has been given his own personal training programme by Cardiff.
“The club have provided our own individual training programmes which is helpful, though as professional footballers you should know what you require to keep fit and be ready for whenever we start playing again,” he said.
“Ideally you want to be training with the rest of the lads but with this situation that’s not possible. I have been out for a few runs and have been lifting weights.
“I know there has been lots of speculation about dates when football will be back but I believe we can only return when it is completely safe to do so.”
Whyte, who made his name with Crusaders and was multiple Player of the Year in his last season before moving into English football, keeps in touch with his old pals at Seaview.
“I still have very good friends at Crusaders and am in a WhatsApp group with Sean O’Neill, Declan Caddell and Jordan Forsythe who keep me up to date with all the craic,” he said.
“Jordan sent in a clip of me missing a chance for Northern Ireland in Bosnia when I should have scored but I got him back by saying I had won three titles while he only had two!
“It is good to keep in touch with the lads. I will always have great affection for Crusaders and Belfast will always be my home.”