Marc Pugh’s career is nothing short of incredible, and it goes to show that you should never give up in life. The 33-year-old has been told on numerous occasions that he ‘wasn’t good enough’ to play in League Two, League One and even the Championship, but the doubters have been well and truly silenced.
He came through the youth academy at Burnley, featuring on the bench for the Clarets aged just 16 at Villa Park in a Carling Cup tie. But soon afterwards was told that ‘he wasn’t good enough’ by new manager Steve Cotterill despite scoring 27 goals in 17 games at youth level that season.
He spent the last five or six games of the 2005/06 season at Bury to gain vital first-team experience and scored on his first full start for the Shakers away at Lincoln.
He earned himself a one-year deal at Gigg Lane, working under former Manchester United defender Chris Casper, one of the lesser-know members of the Class Of ’92. He came through the same academy as David Beckham, Paul Scholes, Nicky Butt and Phil and Gary Neville.
A year on, he switched over to Shrewsbury Town for a fresh challenge to test himself away from his homeland in Lancashire. He started off well, but once again a change of manager went against Pugh and he was sent out on loan to Luton and Hereford United. He was released by Salop while on his honeymoon after being told he wasn’t part of new manager Paul Simpson’s plans.
Marc was offered a one-year deal at Hereford, where he spent a short spell on-loan at while at Shrewsbury. He went on to have an excellent season in League Two for the Bulls, scoring 13 goals in 40 games, finishing the clubs top goal scorer in the 2009-10 season.
He scored two goals on his debut against Morecambe as well as scoring three goals against Bournemouth, who were absolutely flying at the time. Throughout that season he caught the eye of Cherries boss Eddie Howe, and at the end of the season the Englishman decided to take a punt on Pugh and the rest is history.
However, the move to Bournemouth was a confusing one and there would have been points where many fans thought the deal wasn’t going to go through. The fee was decided by a tribunal as £100,000 and was described as ‘quite excessive’ by vice-chairman Jeff Mostyn.
Speaking about how the move came around, Pugh said: “I was told Bournemouth were interested so I drove down with my wife to meet Eddie Howe and we just clicked right away. We got on well, I loved his philosophy and the way he wanted to play. It was a big decision for us as we are originally from up north, but I really wanted to test myself at League One.
“I actually went on the train with Jeff to the tribunal. We had lunch in a Selfridges in London and that was just after he had to pay £100,000 for me. He still jokes with me to this day that I was an absolute rip off, but he does admit now that it was a great investment.”
He made his debut in a 1-0 defeat against Charlton, before scoring his first Cherries goal in a 5-1 home win against Peterborough when he nodded home Liam Feeney’s cross.
Expressing his feelings on that moment: “It was an amazing feeling and that gave me the confidence to think that I did deserve to play in League One. A lot of people doubted me and said I wasn’t good enough for League Two let alone League One. I just wanted to prove people wrong and I kept believing in my ability. I was on fire that season, I think I was on between 10-13 goals by Christmas and I was on a real purple patch at that time. That was the season where I really started to believe in myself.”
In January, unfortunately all the hard work went a little downhill as Howe departed for Burnley. It had a huge effect on the squad, including Pugh. Lee Bradbury took over the reins and guided the Cherries to the play-off semi-finals, where they were beaten by Huddersfield Town on penalties.
Speaking about the departure of Howe and the heart-break of the play-off defeat. He went on record to say: “It played a massive part as everything Bournemouth have achieved is down to Eddie Howe and the backroom staff. You look when we were sitting 19th in League One and we were really struggling for a while. It’s just his coaching philosophy and he works tirelessly on the training ground and even after training also, he is the last person to leave. He is always analysing and his attention to detail is amazing therefore his success comes with that hard work. There is no coincidence at all that he is one of the best English managers and he deserves everything he gets.”
“Lee Bradbury done a really good job; I love Bradders. If you look at the team when Eddie came back, Bradders made some very good signings with the likes of Steve Cook and Charlie Daniels. It wasn’t easy for him to gel everyone together, something Eddie is very good at. Lee had massive shoes to fill and he done really well and we were really unlucky in the play off’s. If we had won that and gone up to the Championship that season, he may have had a lot longer to be his successor.”
There were rumours of Pugh leaving as he stated his desire to play at a higher level, but the return of Eddie Howe in October 2012 sparked one of the most incredible runs in football history, an 18 match unbeaten run which was ended with a defeat against Wigan. The return of Howe convinced the winger to sign a new deal to the delight of Cherries fans.
Pugh went into to say: “There was a spell in between when I was struggling as I was in and out of the team as I hadn’t signed my contract, but there were a number of reasons for it. The reason I signed for Bournemouth was for Eddie Howe and Jason Tindall as they got the best out of me and I really enjoyed working under them as we had an instant connection. As soon as Eddie came back, I think I signed my contract two or three days later. We went on that incredible run for 18/19 games and in League One that takes some doing because you go away to the likes of Rochdale and places like that and they are not easy places to go. The return of Howe installed so much confidence into all of us.”
The end of that season had a thrilling climax and reminds you of the scenes at Vicarage Road when Watford defeated Leicester in 2013.
All the Bournemouth fans were on the pitch at Prenton Park celebrating promotion and the title, especially when Marcelo Trotta’s penalty came crashing off the bar, but James Coppinger went up the other end and put the ball in the net,which stole the title from the palms of the Cherries.
Speaking about that crazy occasion, Pugh said: “It was absolutely mental. I think there were five or six added minutes in that other game and we had done our job. I remember to this day, there was a little TV as we were walking to the dug out and we are all there cuddling and crowding round and were absolutely buzzing when Brentford got the penalty. We are thinking all he’s got to do is score it, but he’s hit it off the crossbar. There was a Doncaster player who was talking to the manager while the penalty was being taken and the balls been kicked up to him. He’s onside just inside his own half and he’s ran through and scored. We’ve gone from absolutely buzzing to a bit deflated. At the end of the day, we got promoted and we were still chuffed to bits, but it could have been an awful lot better.”
One thing the Cherries fans loved watching week in week out was the link-up play between Charlie Daniels and Marc Pugh down the left-hand side and the winger went on to speak about the time they gave now Manchester City winger Riyad Mahrez one of the toughest afternoons of his career.
“My relationship with Charlie is absolutely amazing. We get on really well off the field and we took that onto the field. We knew each other’s game inside out and it wasn’t through luck. I just loved working with him and we stood each other down to the ground as we were both good defensively and both good going forward also. As a winger or full-back, a lot of people would have probably hated playing against us and I remember when we played Leicester and Riyad Mahrez spent most of his afternoon running back towards his own goal. It must have been a tough afternoon for him.”
The promotion season is a something that Bournemouth fans will never forget, and It couldn’t haven’t got off to a better start as Marc Pugh scored just 30 seconds into the new season. Was it a sign that something special was about to happen?
Pugh said: “It was a real quick start as Matt Ritchie pinged the diagonal ball across and I managed to slip in behind and slot it away nicely. Going away to the likes of Huddersfield and winning 4-0, meant that you knew you were real contenders as they are a real top side. It was only the first game of the season but we played some unbelievable football that day and we just continued to do that.”
October 25th, 2014, is a date that all Cherries fans will remember, especially Pugh, who scored his first professional hat-trick in an 8-0 rout at St Andrews against Birmingham City.
Speaking about that memorable day, he said: “Honestly, I had an absolute nightmare the first half and I was lucky not to be subbed off. In the second half we looked like scoring every time we went forward and it could have been 15-0. It was brilliant and was the best stuff we played all season. My hat-trick was a special moment as its something that you work tirelessly for as a professional footballer and hopefully I can add a few more to that.”
Pugh is definitely one for coming up with the goods at pivotal moments, as he notched again in the 3-0 win against Bolton, which effectively sealed promotion to the Premier League.
Pugh said: “It was one of the best feelings ever because playing in the Premier League has always been my dream and that goal helped set that up. There was a lot of players in that team who hadn’t played in the Premier League so we were all chomping at the bit. When we scored the first goal that season, we were blowing teams away. When we looked back at the stats on a Monday morning, we were averaging 500 passes per game while other teams were averaging 250.”
The scenes in the dressing room afterwards were brilliant and you may remember the fantastic live interview with Jeff Mostyn, where he screams “I love these fu*king boys” on Sky Sports.
Pugh was one of Mostyn’s biggest admirers and was quick to thank the vice-chairman for everything he done for him.”Jeff is an absolute legend and I love him to bits. He’s done a lot for me and played a massive part in the rise of the football club. He isn’t just one of these chairmen who put money into the club, he is a passionate football fan and has desire to achieve more and more for Bournemouth. He is genuinely just a lovely guy and I have so much respect for him that I could speak about him all day.”
Pugh’s first Premier League goal came in a thrilling 4-3 win at Upton Park against West Ham, although the headlines were stolen by the pacey Callum Wilson who scored a hat-trick.
Talking about that day he went onto to say: “Callum scored a superb hat-trick that day and it was a really important one. We played really well in the first game against Villa and we absolutely battered them, but they’ve popped up with a header, so that made us realise how tough the Premier League really was. We went into the West Ham game and knew we needed to win. Scoring my first Premier League goal was one of the best feelings I’ve had in football and one I will always remember celebrating in front of the fans. I love to look back and visualise my goals and that’s one I always love to look back at.”
Marc went on to have numerous successful years in the top-flight with Bournemouth, but fell out of favour in the 2019/20 season and ended on loan at Hull City, before an emotional departure from the Cherries saw a guard of honour in his final home game against Tottenham.
Speaking about his departure, he said: “It was really emotional. I was told around October time when me and Eddie Howe had a chat. I said to him that I was willing to fight for my place and hang around, but I was coming into my last year and I didn’t want to be forgotten about. There was a lot of stuff that was going on behind the scenes and I don’t think it was down to Eddie, but I was told I wasn’t being given a contract. I accepted it and knew I had to move on. I didn’t want to just be turning up to training and collecting wages and getting nothing for it. The guard of honour was special as I wasn’t expecting it and it was a really nice moment for me and my family.”
Opening up on his experiences at Hull, he said: “It used to take me six-and-a-half hours to drive there so I didn’t get back to Bournemouth often to see the family. Nigel Atkins, what a guy. I’ve been so fortunate to have played under some great managers. He is one of the most positive people I’ve ever met and has a whole positive vibe about him. We were really unlucky to miss out on the play-offs that season. I struggled to get into the team for six or seven games as we had Jarrod Bowen and Kamil Grosicki on the wings and they were flying at the time. I did manage to get in though, playing as a number 10 and managed to score on my debut.”
Marc secured a move to Championship side Queens Park Rangers last the summer on a one-year deal.
Speaking about how the move came around, he said: “I was actually getting concerned as it was coming to end of pre-season last summer and no club really took a punt on me or anything, I was just training on my own. A week or two before the season was about to start, I got a call of Mark Warburton and again I got a good vibe off of him and he is a lovely, lovely guy and very knowledgeable. To be honest, I didn’t have a lot of options, but QPR is a fantastic club with a fantastic set of fans.
Pugh is excited by the youth players available at Loftus Road: “I tried to help push the young lads. Eze is naturally such a gifted player and he glides through the midfield with ease and will definitely reach the top for sure. Bright Oyasi-Samuel, another fantastic player with power and strength and he also chips in with the odd goal and assist. On his day, he must be a defender’s nightmare. I hope by working with them every day and using my experience brought the best out them.”
Recently, due the Coronavirus outbreak, Pugh departed QPR and Is currently searching for a new club.
“I left QPR due to a clause in my contract. I needed to play one more game to get a new contract and for financial reasons the club couldn’t afford to trigger that clause so it was best for the club that we mutually agreed that I didn’t play that one game. I have no idea where I’ll be playing next season but I’m always willing to take on a new challenge.”
Marc Pugh’s Instagram account is probably a lot different to most other footballers or athletes you follow.
Footballers profiles tend to be filled with in action shots, celebrations and career highlights but his Instagram is dedicated to his passion and hidden talent in the kitchen.
“I did a nutrition course when I was 26 and around that time myself and my wife were expecting our second child and it was my way of helping around the house as my wife was doing a lot on her own. I tested a little bit of cooking and although I was terrible at first, I grew to love it and found It really therapeutic. I love trying different dishes and love educating myself with the different flavours and since I done that course, I’ve learnt a lot of techniques and strategies. I’ve just wanted to learn more and more ever since. I definitely want to release a cookbook within the next year or so.”
It’s fair to say that Marc Pugh has been through it all and was quick to say that you should never give up in life. His favourite quote is “hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard”.
“I’ve seen a lot of football players who are so gifted but they didn’t have the willingness to work hard. When I got the Premier League I never thought I had made it, you’ve got to keep on pushing. If you look at Messi and Ronaldo, they never stop pushing themselves despite the large amount of goals they scored.
It’s really nice to prove people wrong who doubted me in the past. I can look back and be proud of what I’ve done knowing I done everything in my power to make it happen.”
Even though the Coronavirus has taken it toll over the last few months and left many footballers jobless, opportunity will be as ripe as ever and I’m sure it wont be long until Marc faces his next challenge.