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Coronavirus: Former Northern Ireland goalkeeper Tommy Wright praised for looking after elderly during pandemic


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Tommy Wright

Tommy Wright

PA

Tommy Wright

The worldwide Covid-19 pandemic has seen football clubs cut off from their communities in a period of lockdown but Tommy Wright is determined they won't be cut adrift.

The joy and routine football brings to our lives has been ripped away by the virus but clubs can now have a far more significant and meaningful role to play within society.

Scottish Premiership side St Johnstone have recognised that there has never been a more important time to reach out to the community, particularly those who are living in fear during this health crisis.

Wright and the club have been widely praised for their move to lift the spirits of elderly season ticket holders by giving them a kind-hearted phone call amid the outbreak.

One Scottish football fan revealed that the former Northern Ireland goalkeeper had made a call to a season ticket holder over the age of 70, checking in to make sure everything was okay.

The players are also contacting fans to let them know there is support for them during these uncertain times.

Wright, who won 31 Northern Ireland caps from 1989 to 1999, issued a message to supporters urging them to stay positive and understanding during this crisis.

"While football remains suspended, myself, my staff and the players will be phoning around our elderly season ticket holders for a quick chat and to see if there is anything that the club can do to assist," stated the former Newcastle and Manchester City stopper.

"Once we have called our elderly supporters, we will do our best to phone round as many season ticket holders as possible for as long as this break from football continues.

"So, if you receive a phone call from myself, one of the staff or the players, it isn't a hoax!"

The 56-year-old added: "It's important to look out for your family members, friends and neighbours. These are unprecedented times for this country and indeed the world, and we need to check in on those who are most vulnerable.

"We need to try and stay positive, follow government guidelines, and hopefully the situation will improve quickly. We're all dealing with the uncertainty at the moment but hopefully everything can return to normal as soon as possible."

With Scottish football on shutdown the Perth side, along with the rest of the Scottish Premiership, are working from home with players on personalised training programmes and strict diet regimes.

The club will also not be cutting players' wages but football is not uppermost in anyone's minds as the virus continues to wreak havoc.

"I've seen myself first-hand the situation in supermarkets with empty shelves and I'd like to ask everybody to remain sensible when it comes to shopping," added Wright. "My brother works in the retail industry and he has assured me that there is more than enough food for everyone as long as people don't stockpile food and buy more than they need. It's the most vulnerable people at this time who suffer most from empty supermarket shelves.

"On the football side of things, there is still a lot of uncertainty about what will happen but this is entirely out of our control. I'm sure the footballing authorities will be working extremely hard during these testing times. When there is any update, the club will keep supporters updated via the usual channels.

"The players and coaching staff remain away from McDiarmid Park and we feel this is the safest and best course of action. All players have their own individual training programmes which are being monitored daily by staff so that when football does finally return they are raring to go again."

Gary Henderson, the club's media and communications officer, explained the thinking behind the idea to contact fans.

"We see the club as an important part of the community and wanted to give something back whilst engaging with the supporters during what is undoubtedly a difficult time for everyone," he said. "Many of our elderly fans will face weeks in isolation and if a phone call from the manager or one of the players can help keep them positive then it's worthwhile.

"Initially, we'll be calling all of our senior season ticket holders but the aim is to reach out to all of our season ticket holders eventually, depending on how long we remain in this situation. The manager and the players are fully behind it and they too are enjoying chatting about football with the supporters."

Meanwhile, the Scottish Professional Football League has made advanced payments to the country's 42 senior clubs as they attempt to navigate coronavirus.

Football in Scotland has been suspended since March 13.

Payments due to be paid in April have begun to appear in the bank accounts of each of the clubs, many of which are suffering financial difficulty. The top three in the Premiership - Celtic, Rangers and Motherwell - will receive £395,000 plus VAT. The rest of the top-flight clubs will get £157,500 plus VAT.

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