Family connections have long made Marc Pugh a tongue-in-cheek transfer target at Clitheroe. But after a recent dip in form, manager David Dempsey swooped to make the idea a reality.
The eighth-tier side announced the signing of Pugh last week following a run of four without a win which had seen them lose ground in a competitive play-off race in the Northern Premier League Division One West.
The Blues are currently fourth in the table, and will now be boosted by the addition of a winger with nearly 50 Premier League appearances under his belt.
But what prompted the former Bournemouth man, now 35, to step back onto the pitch after over two years of inactivity? And why Shawbridge as the venue of choice for his return?
‘’We’ve got Marc’s brother Lee with us,’’ Clitheroe manager David Dempsey explained.
‘’And it’s always something we’ve joked at, saying ‘imagine if we could bring your brother in, how big would that be, what a coup for the club.’’
But having watched his side surrender a two-goal lead to draw against Prescot Cables, a result which followed defeats to Trafford, Newcastle Town and City of Liverpool, Dempsey decided to try and call in that connection.
‘’I was just a little bit frustrated,’’ said Dempsey.
‘’So, I just phoned Lee and said ‘look, I know it was tongue-in-cheek earlier but let’s try and make it happen.
‘’And from there it happened very quickly.
‘’Marc’s really excited, as are we as a club.’’
Clitheroe’s excitement at the acquisition is understandable, with the signing of a player of Pugh’s pedigree a relative rarity in the non-league game.
Dempsey himself however is no stranger to a marquee transfer, having been in charge of Ashton Town when they signed former Tottenham Hotspur and Wigan Athletic defender Pascal Chimbonda.
That signing garnered national media attention for the then-tenth tier side, and Dempsey anticipates that Clitheroe could now benefit from similar exposure.
‘’It will open up another pool of supporters,’’ Dempsey said.
‘’People will come for the occasion, just to see Marc and watch him play, even if they don’t support Clitheroe.
‘’They’ll be opportunities for sponsorship, publicity. We wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for Marc signing for the club.
‘’So, it’s just a great opportunity.’’
Following confirmation of his signing, Pugh announced on social media that he would be playing for the club for free, with his proposed wages set to be donated to an as of yet unspecified charity at the end of the season.
And Dempsey says such a gesture is an indicator of the kind of character he is gaining in his dressing room.
‘’He asked me about the deal and what we could offer him, so I told him what I could afford out of the budget,’’ Dempsey explained.
‘’And he said ‘brilliant, I don’t want a penny of that, just make a donation to a charity of my choice.
‘’I was absolutely delighted when he said that, I just thought it was a real testament to the type of person he is, so hats off to him.’’
On the pitch, Pugh is yet to make his Clitheroe debut, having not featured in the Blues’ 2-1 win at fellow play-off hopefuls Runcorn Linnets.
Dempsey’s side are back in action at home to Leek Town on Saturday, and despite a return to winning ways last time out, his new addition looks set for a place in the side.
‘’I know what I want to do,’’ Dempsey said.
‘’But I’ll have to speak to Marc to see where he’s at and what he’s comfortable with.
‘’If he’s fit and he’s available, he’s definitely in contention for a start, and if not a start then a massive impact.
‘’We’re talking about an ex-Premier League footballer with all that experience, knowledge and talent, so if he feels ready, I’d be a fool not to go with what he thinks is right.
‘’But one man, no matter how talented they are, won’t get us into the play-offs; it’s a team sport.’’