Stoke City have phoned more than 1,000 supporters over the last few days to check they are okay during the coronavirus crisis.
Michael O’Neill’s first-team squad and management staff are among more than 70 volunteers throughout the club who have volunteered for the project, which is being run by City’s Community Trust.
The initiative is aimed at older members of their support. Stoke have the contact details of 1,800 of them on their database and have already spoken to the majority.
The club’s head of community Adrian Hurst said: “We are all living in uncertain times and I know that, for the older and more vulnerable members of our fan base, having to socially isolate must be a difficult, lonely and frightening thing to be going through.
“We wanted to give them chance to interact with the club so we asked members of our staff to volunteer to reach out to those people via a phone call and we’ve been overwhelmed by the response.
“Members of our first-team squad and coaching staff – as well as some of our former players – are also taking part, which is fantastic.
“Our volunteers will be having a good natter with people who I know will really appreciate them making the effort to do so.
“There has never been a more important time for us all to come together as a community.”
Volunteers are equipped with numbers of helplines and support networks for supporters who do need help. For some though, the phone calls are simply a welcome opportunity to talk football.
Hurst added: “The feedback has been amazing, it is very humbling that people are so surprised that the club is just reaching out to them and having a conversation.
“We are giving staff the autonomy to decide whether people need a weekly call or a one off is all right. We have prepared staff with the knowledge of what to do if people are self-isolating and struggling.”
The football season, for both the EFL and the Premier League, was suspended on March 13 and clubs are waiting to see when the national game can return.
Meanwhile, Stoke City’s owners have assured club staff they will continue to be paid despite the football shutdown.
Stoke City match day staff have been told they will be paid despite games being postponed and full-time staff will have salaries guaranteed for the next five months.
The Coates family has also told full-time employees at bet365 that there will be no job losses over the next five uncertain months.