Longstanding fans need some convincing they aren't being pranked
Marc Pugh at Lulworth Cove, pre coronavirus. Picture: Laura Pugh
When Queen’s Park Ranger midfielder Marc Pugh called up some of the club’s most loyal fans to check how they were during the coronavirus crisis he had some convincing to do that he wasn’t a prank caller.
He recalled that one of the club’s most long-standing season ticket holders was not sure at first who he was.
“They seemed really surprised. One of the guys I was speaking to thought it was a bit of a prank and he said his friends prank him all the time. It took about three or four minutes for him to clock me, it was actually me and we had a good catch up. So I don’t think they were expecting it,” said the 33-year-old.
And whilst the players can’t bring football to the fans at the moment as Loftus Road is closed until the lockdown ends, players, manager Mark Warburton, coaches, and director of football Les Ferdinand contacted the club’s 50 oldest season ticket holders and members by phone to check on them and make sure they are getting the support they need.
Checking up on fans’ welfare really struck a chord with Marc as his sister-in-law Brittany Kershaw, who is a trauma nurse in Bolton is preparing to go onto a ward which will care for coronavirus patients.
“We are praying for her. It’s incredible what they do. I take my hats off to them, what they do is amazing.”
And he said it is vitally important that everyone stays safe and stays at home to care for themselves and each other.
Marc said the fans quizzed him on club news when he did his bit by calling them.
“I got some questions, they were asking me all sorts of questions about what’s going on, what players are we signing. To be honest as players we don’t know what goes on in the background. We turn up and we train.”
“It was a great opportunity though to tell the fans how much we appreciate them.”
This is his first season with QPR after joining from Bournemouth. The team were six points off the play offs when matches were postponed.
He called super fans Ray and David who between them have clocked up more than 90 years of holding season tickets for the Loftus Road club.
“They were full of life, full of enthusiasm, our older generation of fans.
“They love the club, we had great chat, they told me some lovely stories from back in the day.”
“We just had a general catch up and banter. It was a good job we were performing well or they would have probably told me where I was going wrong. It was really nice.”
He added that as fans pay players’ wages “so the minimum that we can do is work as hard as we can and put a smile on their faces.”
There’s been a nationwide debate on whether football players should take a pay cut along with their furloughed colleagues.
Marc said: “We’ve just got to do what’s best for everyone. No-one wants to see the clubs going bust. I think we’ve just got to do what’s best at the end of the day we’ve got to listen to the clubs, see what they’ve got to say. As players we’ve got a responsibility, we’re under contract.
“You don’t want to see anyone struggling. The NHS has been absolutely amazing.”
And he praised the club’s reaction to do everything it could to keep staff and fans safe.
“You’ve got to put the football to one side and do what’s best for the community and the country and keep everybody safe.”
And since the lockdown players have been training alone rather than joining each other.
“Especially on your own it’s mentally really challenging. The fitness coaches at QPR are absolutely brilliant and they’ve set us programmes. As an individual it’s up to you to maintain your fitness level. I’m obsessed with fitness so I’ve always been on top of that.
“We’ve been going on two or three runs a week, mixing it up with interval training so long distance training, that kind of thing. It’s been well planned out. Obviously we don’t know when we’re back in training or when the football season’s going to be.
“We’ve got to be ready, we’ve got to get our heads round it and most importantly we’ve got to look after our families, we’ve got to take care of them. It’s a mental challenge and everyone’s got to be on top on it.”
Players and families have group chats and Zoom meetings to keep in touch. And Marc said that he’s found that people have kept distance when he’s out for his training runs.
“It’s just keeping on top of the work and being respectful of other people.”
He added: “I just try to get the work done and try and make the days as happy as you can.”
“Everyone’s got their worries but you’ve got to try and be as happy as you can.”
Julia Gregory - Local Democracy Reporter
April 9, 2020