ELDERLY and vulnerable Albion supporters were shocked when they received surprise phone calls from club stars.

The likes of Bobby Zamora and Bruno were among the players and club staff to take part in a telephone campaign, calling faithful fans to check that they were all right during the coronavirus crisis.

Chief executive Paul Barber said the scheme, which focuses on the team’s loyal fanbase, epitomises the values of the club.

He said: “Twenty-odd years ago, the community saved this football club.

“It was really important to us to make sure that, in this period, we found a way to keep in touch.

“On Thursday I called five people, the chairman has called a few today. I know that Graham [Potter, the manager] is doing some and Bruno is doing some. Andrew Crofts is doing some, Bobby Zamora is doing some.”

Mr Barber said he started slowly with the phone calls, with the first two people he called not picking up the phone.

Though he initially found this “a little bit disconcerting”, it turned out the pair had just been in their gardens and both quickly called him back.

He said: “They were really appreciative of the call. We had a good chat, a few laughs and jokes about what they’d been up to and what they shouldn’t get up to. We checked and made sure they had the food they needed and any pharmacy requirements they needed.

The conversations were enjoyed by both callers and recipients.

Mr Barber said: “It’s a small thing we can do. But I think it’s the right thing to do and it’s been great.

“It’s been uplifting for me personally, funnily enough, and also the others who’ve been in the calls. It gives you a little sense that you’re contributing to something.”

The idea of phoning vulnerable fans during this tumultuous time has been taken up by several other clubs in the Premier League and beyond. Mr Barber said it showed what the sport was all about.

He said: “Football is made up of really good people who want to do the right thing from the top of the clubs right the way through the staff and players and coaches.

“Clubs realise how important they are to their communities, particularly at a time like this.

“I think football’s shown that, actually, there’s a real heart and soul to the game which some people thought might have been lost over the years. But it’s very much there, it’s very much in evidence.”

  • The coronavirus Sussex Crisis Fund has been set up to help those affected by the pandemic. The Argus’s charity and American Express have each donated £50,000 to kick-start the appeal. Grants will usually be for up to £5,000. More information is available at www.sussexgiving. org.uk/apply. To donate visit www.totalgiving.co.uk/appeal/sussexcrisisfund