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James Crawley

James Crawley writes

Posted Friday, August 6th 2021

Feature: Coming through the Covid crisis (Part three)

In our final look back on how City has come through the Covid-19 pandemic, Supporter Liaison Officer Jerry Tocknell discusses life for fans without the beautiful game.

He continued to spend many hours on the phone and at the end of emails as he kept close to the supporters and now he's looking forward to their long-awaited return to Ashton Gate with the season upon us.

Needless to say, he played as key a role as any in keeping fans communicated during football’s road through the Covid-19 pandemic.

A true man of the people, Jerry gave up his own time to keep in contact with concerned fans and offered help and support where he could at every possible second.

Lifelong Bristol City supporter Jerry Tocknell

Part 3: For the fans

‘Missing the interaction’

“It’s about the event rather than just the game. The away days are what you live for and to not have been able to go has been horrible. I have just missed the company and the bubble of people you get into on an away day and nothing else matters. You miss the banter, the company and of course the football but it’s about more than that.

“That first game back after the break in the 2019/20 season at Blackburn Rovers was the first game I had watched live on the TV. You eventually got used to it but it was not the same as being in the stadium watching live football. I miss the events, the days out, both home and away but the away games are always special.”

Hard to provide the answers

“The unknowns were the most difficult thing because nobody knew what the next process would be during the first half of the pandemic. The refunds were horrendous and the problem we all had was we couldn’t answer all the questions. We couldn’t offer guarantees but as time went by, fans were more understanding of the situation.

“But there is still a lot of humour within City fans still, in the phone calls, and there were positives to take. I have spoken to hundreds of supporters since last summer and answered emails whether that’s fans in their nineties or little ones.”

Remembering those we have lost

“We lost a lot of fans as well. I was on the phones during the lockdowns and I heard from widows whose partners had been City fans. People who were terminally ill wanted to come down and watch one last game and after I’d put the phone down it would really hit home. It’s poignant, mind-blowing that football just stopped, there was no winding down period.

“We were still planning for Blackburn on the Saturday after the Fulham game and by Thursday it all came to a halt. The sad stories are people will not have been able to see their club play again, they didn’t get one last chance to watch the boys for one last time.”

How players and staff helped

“The players were brilliant too. Through Matt Parsons and the Media Team they were able to speak to the players and get messages to fans for all sorts of reasons. Tommy Rowe did a message for a supporter in intensive care who was not expected to pull through but he came round. The family sent us an amazing email afterwards. Lee Johnson, Dean Holden and Nigel Pearson were all really good as well. They gave people a huge lift.”

The long-awaited return of fans

“I am buzzing for it and I can’t wait to see people again. I’ve spoken to so many people over the last year and I’m looking forward to seeing them and meeting new people when they’re down here.

“I really believe it’s been a reality check for all of us. We took football for granted, we took watching City every Saturday for granted and having known a time when we couldn’t do that, we’ll appreciate it a lot more.”

Coming through the Covid crisis

Read the three-part series in full: Part One documented the steps football and the club went through from the moment that first match against Blackburn Rovers was suspended, while Part Two looked at the role of the club's Covid officer and how he helped keep the Robins High Performance Centre construction on track despite the pandemic.

The Sky Bet Championship returns unrestricted with supporters for the first time since March 2020, with thousands of fans set to take their seats at Ashton Gate on Saturday, August 7th when City host Blackpool.

We can't wait to see you!

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