Every week, Express FM runs a live show dedicated to news about the Coronavirus in Portsmouth, as Robbie James interviews a range of local people, including politicians, experts, residents and businesses. On 20th May, Robbie spoke to Pompey player Christian Burgess about his work with Pompey in the Community, local charities, and the HIVE during lockdown. Transcribed by Heather Freathy.
Robbie James: We [recently spoke with] Clare Martin from Pompey in the Community about the competitive aspect of football and how it’s difficult at the moment, but you’ve [found a way of] keeping busy [while] benefiting the community?
Christian Burgess: Yeah, it’s just a great opportunity to use some of the time that we have to try and have a positive impact really. The guys down at the PITC and down at the HIVE and the numerous other charities have been fantastic. So, it’s been a pleasure really to be involved.
How did it all begin?
When lockdown happened, there were some obvious issues that would affect people, [I wanted] to see how we could help at the Club and the players were interested to get involved, they were keen. I reached out to Clare and they were more than happy to try and get us involved and do something good.
When you play for a team like Portsmouth, and you get to experience the the community firsthand, has it been nice to be a part of [the community in] a different form [from] being on the pitch?
Yeah definitely, [it’s] the old classic giving something back. Everybody at Portsmouth understands how big the football club is to the city. [The] support we get is just unparalleled at this level, and it’s a joy to play in. To be a part of the community is a pleasure for all of us, so it was the first thing that came into our minds – how we could help do something positive.
Why do you think it is such a big part of everyone’s lives? And why do you think Pompey have come together as well as they have – it is going on around the country but it feels like in Pompey it’s on another level. Can you find any reason why that is?
It’s hard to put your finger on it. I think the island feel to Portsmouth, the community spirit that is here – you know everybody’s proud to live here. I know I am! It’s just a wonderful place to be. So you get that feeling of togetherness, especially [from] the football club’s point of view. When the fans owned the club, it gave everybody immense pride that they saved the football club and it was a huge effort from so many fans and so many people in the community. I think that’s probably added to that feeling.
From a player point of view is that reflected within the squad, in terms of the community feel? Is there a sense that Pompey players really are part of the community as a squad?
Yeah. I think when everybody signs here they quickly realise the size of the club and what it means to the supporters, and that is a great privilege and a massive inspiration to try and be successful – if anybody needed it! I think the more you play your football here, the longer you’re here, [it] just builds, the more [a] sense of community and like a family the club feels.
How do you feel at the moment about [the work you’re doing in the community]? I imagine [you’re] seeing a lot of vulnerable people and getting a first hand view. How safe do you feel outside [in] the areas you go to?
I feel pretty safe. We take the necessary precautions, we have some PPE through the various charities – whether that’s donations or provisions from elsewhere. We always do everything we can to prevent risk: keep our distance, wear protective equipment when you’re dropping off packages, so as to not endanger vulnerable [people] that you’re helping. I think we are doing everything we can and I certainly feel pretty safe. I think the guys that I have worked for – PITC [and] the HIVE have been great in making sure we have everything we need. So, for me its been fine, there’s been no issue.
A couple of weekends ago you [were] driving a tank down the street in Pompey, which gave a few people a surprise! Can you tell us about that important mission?
That’s what it looked like!
It was actually over in Hayling, so it was the guys [there] had been delivering some prescriptions. As a special thing for VE Day, the chemists all got together, [and] chose some people who were around during VE Day to receive a special delivery in an armoured personnel carrier [click Twitter link below for image].
It was great to be a part of, it really cheered some people up. And yeah, I think the chemists also delivered cream teas with it to be in the spirit. It was fantastic.
Christian Burgess #Pompey arriving in a tank, as you do, to deliver meds to a fan on his 90th birthday. Burgess been incredible during pandemic, working in a kitchen & delivering food/meds. Burgess’ girlfriend Meabh Mallaghan is a doctor on the frontline on a coronavirus ward 🙌 pic.twitter.com/LDXLWKiKPY
— Henry Winter (@henrywinter) May 9, 2020
And how do you feel about the season restarting? You’re a busy man now, you might not have time!
[Laughs]. I’m looking forward to it. I’ll get to settle down again, if possible it would be great. There’s been a lot of work going into the season [and] I think as long as it’s safe, we’re all very keen to start at Portsmouth.
I’m like everybody else really, just waiting on decisions to be made by the League and the clubs involved. I am eager to learn but obviously realise you need to be patient [while] trying to keep ready if we are called upon to restart.
We wish you all the very best when it when it does restart. And a huge thank you for everything you’re doing for the community.
Thanks Robbie, but you know the real heroes are all the guys who are volunteering down at the various charities and putting in all the hard work. I just go along at the end and steal the credit, so don’t forget all those guys.
This article was transcribed from Express FM’s weekly Coronavirus Special podcast, 20th May 2020, and has been edited for clarity and length.