Former Bournemouth winger Marc Pugh recently came out of retirement to play for Northern Premier League club Clitheroe FC.
Pugh was part of two promotion-winning teams on the south coast, including the one that climbed into the Premier League in 2014/15.
The 36-year-old returned to his Lancashire roots to help Clitheroe’s promotion bid, but they came up short in the play-offs against Workington.
We recently had the opportunity to chat with Pugh about his time in the sport, starting with his move to Bournemouth.
You left Hereford United to join Bournemouth in League 1. What was the leap to the third tier like?
It was 13 years back now, but playing football and being paid for it still feels like I am living a dream every day. I was in League 2 and scored twice against Bournemouth. They signed me permanently afterwards, so I guess it was meant to be.
You won promotion to the Premier League in 2015 – can you remember your emotions?
Playing in the Premier League is amazing. It sounds hackneyed, but I felt I was in a dream. Playing at grounds like Old Trafford or Anfield – you could test yourself against the best players in the world. It’s what I dreamt about as a kid.
How do you manage your life with the income a professional player achieves? Do you have a lot of accountants, financial advisers and agents? Is it hard to cope?
Definitely not! When you have played for years in the lower leagues, you know about the rigours and pressures. You still have to perform, but you don’t get the same income. It’s tough – it makes you really value the chance to earn a good salary in the Premier League.
You spoke about the rigours of playing professional football. How do you cope with training every day at that level?
You are tired by the end of the season, that much is sure, but it’s a good kind of tired. You are constantly working on your fitness and athletic performance. Keeping fit makes you feel good – you have got to be mentally strong and focused.
What do you think of the proposed idea of a winter break for the Premier League as they have in many leagues, including the German Bundesliga?
The run-up to Christmas time is a tough one with the weather at that time of the year. I think it’s a cracking idea – you need a break around that time of the year.
I definitely support the FA’s winter break proposal – you can see from the past what a good impact the winter break has in Spain and Germany. The national team also benefits in international competitions.
Is there a vast difference between a top-six team in La Liga or the Bundesliga and a mid-table team such as your former club Bournemouth in England?
I think you could compare a top-six Spanish club like Real Betis with Tottenham Hotspur in terms of style of play. They both have great movement and a lot of pace. Both teams are technically very good, but I would rank Spurs higher because of individual quality like Harry Kane. I have played against Sevilla and Betis with Bournemouth – La Liga clubs are always tough to play against.
Is there a big gulf in quality between La Liga and the Premier League?
I think the top ten teams in La Liga are outstanding and could compete well in England. There is an intensity and the technical ability is impressive.
Not just Real Madrid and Barcelona, but teams such as Betis, Sevilla, Atletico Madrid, Atletico Bilbao – there is some real pace and ability.
I don’t watch any other football other than the Spanish and English leagues myself. The Spanish is the best football League outside of England, in my opinion.
Are you a fan of the Bundesliga?
Well, year after year of Bayern Munich winning the league – it’s predictable. You know they are going to win it every year. I like the German style of play which is not dissimilar to the English game, but seeing one team win the league year in, year out – where’s the excitement?
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