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Wigan defender Tom Pearce swaps the pitch for plants to help a lifelong fan


Wigan defender Tom Pearce swaps the pitch for plants to help a lifelong fan and season ticket holder in her garden as part of the club’s Tackling Loneliness Together programme on the EFL’s Day of Action

  • Wigan Athletic have been giving back to the community during the pandemic
  • Club’s programme ‘Tackling Loneliness Together’ is for fans at risk of isolation
  • After admitting his love for landscaping, Tom Pearce helped a fan in her garden
  • Wigan have made over 1,700 calls and 400 garden gate visits in last 12 months

Wigan Athletic were winning at Plymouth when three injured players linked up for a live watch-along with fans were asked what they might be if not footballers.

‘Gardener,’ said left-back Tom Pearce without hesitation, and triggered a chain reaction ending with him venturing out to do a spot of weeding and pruning for lifelong Wigan fan and season ticket holder Bernie Green in the West Lancashire village of Upholland.

‘My grandad has always been a keen gardener and I grew up to love gardening,’ Pearce said.

Wigan's Tom Pearce helped a fan in her garden as part of the club's work in the community

Wigan’s Tom Pearce helped a fan in her garden as part of the club’s work in the community

He helped Wigan fan and season ticket holder Bernie Green do a spot of weeding and pruning

He helped Wigan fan and season ticket holder Bernie Green do a spot of weeding and pruning

The defender recently admitted he would be a gardener if he wasn't a professional footballer

The defender recently admitted he would be a gardener if he wasn’t a professional footballer

‘I’ve carried on since I’ve had my own house, I like to get the lines in the grass like Wembley, and if I wasn’t a footballer I’d be a gardener.

‘When I said that during the Plymouth game, they were joking and Bernie said I could come and do some work in her garden so I went along to help her out.’

Bernie, 75, has been a member of Wigan’s Extra Time Hub since her husband Dennis passed away and the club launched a programme called Tackling Loneliness Together for fans at risk of isolation.

They have made more than 1,700 phone calls, delivered 660 goody bags and made more than 400 garden gate visits during the last 12 months.

Never has a football club’s place at the heart of its community been more evident than during the pandemic and nowhere has this connection been more keenly appreciated than at Wigan, where they have spent nearly nine miserable months in administration contemplating extinction.

From mid-table safety in the Championship, they were deducted 12 points, relegated, lost the manager Paul Cook and sold all the players they could. All just seven years after winning the FA Cup, their finest hour.

Wigan were rescued from administration last month when the EFL approved a takeover

Wigan were rescued from administration last month when the EFL approved a takeover

John Sheridan, appointed on the eve of the season, moved on after two months leaving caretaker managers Leam Richardson and Gregor Rioch to battle against relegation with a committed if depleted squad.

It is a minor miracle that they are in with a chance of surviving the drop into League Two at this stage, and supporters have played their part in return by raising more than £850,000 in fighting funds.

‘It’s been a rollercoaster year,’ said 23-year-old Pearce. ‘Everyone was in shock when we found out we were going into administration and we came back for the new season thinking there would be a takeover but there was nothing. It went on for months.

‘The pandemic meant we were communicating face-to-face with fans and gave us an insight into how they were thinking, how much they care, how badly they want you to do well. This is their home town and their club.’

As part of Wigan's Tackling Loneliness Together campaign, the club has made more than 1,700 calls, delivered 660 goody bags and made over 400 garden gate visits in the last 12 months

As part of Wigan’s Tackling Loneliness Together campaign, the club has made more than 1,700 calls, delivered 660 goody bags and made over 400 garden gate visits in the last 12 months

Wednesday marks the EFL's fifth Day of Action when 72 clubs come together to demonstrate the positive impact football

Wednesday marks the EFL’s fifth Day of Action when 72 clubs come together to demonstrate the positive impact football

Wigan were rescued from administration last month when the EFL approved a takeover by a Bahraini consortium. ‘It is a massive weight off our shoulders,’ said Pearce, heralding the green shoots of recovery.

Wednesday marks the EFL’s fifth Day of Action when 72 clubs come together to demonstrate the positive impact football can have on people’s lives through its community projects and it has been a source of vital support in a time of national crisis.

The EFL clubs have combined to deliver more than a million food parcels, almost 180,000 items of PPE and 22,000 prescriptions and have donated stadiums for NHS use and as vaccination centres.

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