Donations to NHS, frozen season ticket prices… Stoke are doing it right

“Hi, Andy, it’s Joe here.” Joe who? Joe the chippy who once did some work on my kitchen?

Joe the old mucker from uni, reconnecting in these terrible times?

Judging by the completely unfamiliar number, it could have been any old Joe.

“Joe Allen.”

The Stoke City midfielder had read last Friday’s column, got hold of my phone number and wanted to say how he agreed with the criticism of grandstanding Tory MP Julian Knight, who had accused professional footballers of living in a “moral vacuum”.

Only there was one small thing.

Allen himself was referenced in the article as an example of a Championship player earning £60,000 a week.

That has been the widely-accepted figure since he signed a new contract in 2018, having joined Stoke from Liverpool two years earlier.

Joe, as politely as you could wish for, wanted to explain that his salary was not nearly that amount.

And by the end of the pleasant conversation, I was happy to acknowledge we had all got it wrong.

But why would he go to the trouble? Maybe because at Stoke City you are aware of your standing in a community that has had monumental struggles in recent times.

It might not be 60 grand a week, but Allen is well-remunerated and probably knows how incongruous that can look alongside the lifestyle of much of the local population.

Allen is emblematic of the club’s values.

Had it not been for a message on a social media notice board a few days ago, we would not have known that Allen had privately made a large donation to the Donna Louise Trust, a charity that runs a local hospice and is threatened by the financial impact of the coronavirus.

His donation had been matched by James McClean, a team-mate criticised here for his ill-judged ‘balaclava’ post – and fined two weeks’ wages by his club for it – but who has also provided funds to the fight against the pandemic in his native Derry.

They do things right at Stoke.

Yes, she earns riches behind the wildest imagination and you might frown at the way that exorbitant wealth has been accrued.

But Denise Coates, of the family that owns Stoke City, has donated £10million to a local NHS Trust to support its staff tackling the coronavirus crisis.

Stoke have made some terrible decisions in the transfer market, but their responsibility to the community has always been upheld.

Season-ticket prices frozen for over a decade, free travel to away games, replica shirts and thousands of tickets given to local children.

There are many other clubs who take their duty to their local populace as passionately as Stoke City.

When we are through this ordeal, let’s hope it is every single club.

If anyone at any club has doubted the importance of their role in everyday communal life, they should just reflect on the reaction to the initiative that has seen players cold-calling vulnerable supporters for a chat.

Unsurprisingly, Stoke City players have been doing it.

The lift it gives fans who might be struggling mentally and physically is lovely to see.

In the meantime, Allen is hoping to lose the protective boot that he needs in his long recovery from a ruptured Achilles tendon – an injury that would have kept him out of his country’s Euro 2020 campaign.

Hopefully, he will be fit and firing to pull on the Welsh jersey in the summer of 2021.

For doing what so many footballers are doing right now – and giving to the stricken communities that treasure their clubs – he deserves to.

100m game, set and match

To the man or woman, or men and women, at the All England Club who decided back in 2003 that it would be a good idea for Wimbledon to pay £1.5million a year in pandemic insurance, well done.

They are now looking at a claim in excess of £100million.

If the self-proclaimed best sporting competition in the world had that sort of foresight, maybe the Premier League and its players would not be embroiled in this unseemly wrangle over pay cuts and deferrals.

No way Jose

Normality has been quarantined in every walk of life – so it is no surprise football’s disciplinary routines appear to have been suspended.

There can be no other reason, for example, why Eric Dier has yet to be charged by the FA after his incursion into the stands after Tottenham’s FA Cup defeat to Norwich on March 4.

But if Jose Mourinho flouting Government instructions by holding a training session in a public park did not bring football into disrepute, it’s hard to know what does.

The only fight that counts

Apologies, but one final word on the preposterous president of UFC, Dana White.

Until UFC 249 was cancelled late on Thursday night, it seemed he still wanted to stage a bill on April 18 and was close to securing a private island to host the event.

He had said the UFC would be “pumping out fights every week”.

Dana, there is only one fight sensible, compassionate people are interested in.

And that is the one against a virus that threatens to change life forever.

Will anyone care if Qatar is cancelled?

Perhaps the United States Department of Justice should have waited until the coronavirus crisis had abated – fingers crossed – before accusing three FIFA officials of receiving bribes to vote in favour of Qatar hosting the 2022 World Cup.

FIFA says the World Cup in less than two years’ time will still go ahead in Qatar.

But, if it was a casualty of a revised post-Covid-19 footballing calendar, would anyone really care?

Champion effort

Just because coronavirus has halted sport, it should not mean champions are not saluted.

So congratulations Brian Hughes, champion jockey of a curtailed National Hunt season.

Anyone reaching the top of that sport deserves all the plaudits he or she gets.

Furlough a no-brainer for many clubs

In essence, Liverpool were emotionally blackmailed into reversing their decision to furlough a large chunk of non-playing staff.

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