When the UK’s sixth coronavirus fatality was a patient at Watford General Hospital, it really brought the pandemic close to home for many in the community.
Not long after, the Premier League was thrown into a standstill with all games suspended indefinitely due to the outbreak.
The country went into lockdown and it was clear that Watford FC wouldn’t be welcoming their supporters into Vicarage Road for a considerable amount of time.
Whilst most of the country’s football clubs shut their doors, Watford FC had opened theirs to its next-door neighbour in Watford General Hospital.
On April 27, West Herts Hospitals NHS Trust (WHHNT) confirmed that all staff including nurses, doctors, managers, cleaners, porters, and anyone else who need a change of scene could swap busy wards for spacious conference facilities.
The football club, who obviously also had to keep an eye for any updates regarding whether the Premier League season would continue, went above and beyond for the community as Vicarage Road completely turned into a full-blown wellbeing facility, completely free of charge.
Breakfast and lunch were provided along with overnight accommodation.
There was also counselling rooms for staff who wanted help with emotional trauma that came from working in such a difficult time.
A memorial room was also created at the club in memory of all the loved ones who died during the pandemic.
Christine Allen, the chief executive of WHHNT said: “Watford General is only a few yards away, but the environment is so different and really seems to lift the mood. Of course, football fans want to see the pitch full of players, but for us, the empty green space has a very calming effect. Whilst our sole focus is our patients, the ability to get away makes all the difference.
“The demands of staff, especially those caring for our sickest patients, have been huge. Having space to talk about the day or just sit and reflect after work before going home can really help staff manage their stress.”
The selfless initiative from the football club has been something that was very much needed in these truly terrible times.
Hornets chairman and chief executive Scott Duxbury said: “It is a privilege to support the hospital. I am so proud of our staff and our volunteers for making this work. Their compassion and desire to help was humbling and shows that the true values of this club are very much alive.
“The speed with which our team made things happen was impressive, bur what they achieved is far more than just a smooth logistical operation – it is kindness in action.
“The hospital know they can rely on us. We are there for them in the same way that they are there for all of us. Opening our doors in such a big way has really built our relationship and sparked thoughts as to how this partnership could have a positive long-term impact.”
A poignant memorial service was also held at Vicarage Road at the end of April which enabled around 500 staff from the hospital to pay their respects to friends and colleagues who have lost their lives to COVID-19.
Whilst the country used Thursday evenings as a way to applaud the work of all the staff at the NHS for their hard work and commitment for everyone who needed them, perhaps one of the most heart-warming moments during these past few months was when Watford General staff gathered at Vicarage Road to clap for the football club.
Football will be resuming for Watford on June 20 when they welcome Leicester City to Vicarage Road to continue a completely different sort of battle, to avoid relegation in the Championship.
But whatever happens on the football pitch, this season will forever be remembered by many as the time the football club stepped in to help the community, when it was desperately needed.