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Features

Pugh: It's a day I will never forget

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AFC Bournemouth AFC Bournemouth

Marc Pugh admitted he’d been having “an absolute shocker” before he played his part in writing a new chapter in the AFC Bournemouth record books.

Pugh bagged a second-half hat-trick as the Cherries trounced Championship rivals Birmingham City 8-0 to register their biggest win in the Football League in October 2014.

Tokelo Rantie’s double and goals from Matt Ritchie, Brett Pitman and Callum Wilson saw Eddie Howe’s team storm St Andrew’s on their way to winning promotion to the Premier League.

Pugh, signed by Howe from Hereford in 2010, went on to become a mainstay as the Cherries more than held their own during their first four years in the top flight.

Recalling the first hat-trick of his career in the latest interview in our series of The Journey, Pugh told afcb.co.uk: “These are the things you dream about when you are growing up.

“It’s a day I will never forget and I will treasure the matchball forever. But it could have been very different because I’d had an absolute shocker in the first half!

“Although we were 3-0 up at half-time, I couldn’t keep the ball and couldn’t pass water. I remember they had a man sent off early and Artur Boruc saved a penalty.

“I scored my first goal early in the second half and grew in confidence from there. I got my second and then we were awarded a penalty.

“At the time, TK needed a goal so I let him have the penalty and he scored. Fortunately, a couple of minutes later, the ball fell to me and I scored my third.

“It was an amazing feeling because it was my first professional hat-trick. I can’t remember where we were in the table but, after that game, we all started to really believe.

“We went into games thinking we were going to win. We had that mentality that we were going to beat everyone and it was pivotal in our push for promotion.”

Asked whether there had been any sympathy for Birmingham, Pugh replied: “Absolutely none whatsoever!

“You have to be ruthless and that game helped our goal difference quite significantly.

“It was a great feeling to win 8-0 and great to be able to give the supporters the satisfaction of seeing such a comprehensive performance.”

Pugh set the tone for a memorable campaign when he scored after just 30 seconds during the opening day victory at Huddersfield.

His strike in the 4-0 win at the John Smith’s Stadium was the first of nine that season as Howe’s rampant team netted no fewer than 98 times on their way to winning the title.

Pugh, who joined QPR at the start of this season, said: “I remember the goal well. It was a great ball by Matty Ritchie and I made a run in behind the full-back. My first touch was spot on and I buried it.

“Callum Wilson was superb that day. He scored twice, missed a penalty and absolutely bullied their defenders throughout the game.

“It’s such a tough place to go, their fans are decent, the atmosphere is always good there and it was the first game of the season but we tore them to pieces.

“We had a couple of sticky patches that season but we never stopped believing and that was the key. The positivity shown by the gaffer and the coaching staff really pushed us on.

“We never stopped working hard on the training ground and never stopped pushing ourselves in the gym. We had a really strong work ethic as well.

“One of my favourite quotes in life is ‘hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard’. I stand by that in everything I do in life.

“They say the Championship season really starts to get going after Christmas and we were winning games left, right and centre.

“I remember going to Blackpool and battering them 6-1. It was tough, especially with their pitch, but that really showed our promotion credentials.

“We had a group of fans in the corner of the ground and it made you realise just how far they had travelled. We were desperate to put in a performance for them, we did and it was a great feeling.”

Pugh, who spent nine years with the Cherries, felt the resounding 5-1 victory at Fulham in early March had been a defining moment in the season.

“I think we had a feeling we could be on to something special after that game,” he said. “I know you can never rest on your laurels and we didn’t.

“Everyone outside of the club kept saying that little Bournemouth couldn’t get into the Premier League and that really inspired us to prove them wrong.

“I’ve done that throughout my career. People kept saying I wasn’t good enough for League One or the Championship or the Premier League and it just inspired me to work as hard as I could to prove them wrong.

“We really started to believe after Fulham. We thought this is where we want to be, we’ve worked hard all season to be this close and we can’t not achieve it now.

“The gaffer didn’t like us to look at tables, he just wanted us to concentrate on the next game. We tried avoiding it but it was difficult because we were so close and so desperate for success.

“We took one game at a time. When we were in a rich vein of form, we just picked off teams. We had a real solidarity about us. We were passing teams off the park and our possession stats were ridiculous.

“We had everything behind us. An amazing coaching staff and a great backroom staff. Everything was in place for the final few games of the season.”

Although a late leveller saw Sheffield Wednesday force a 2-2 draw to put the champagne on ice, Pugh settled any nerves when he opened the scoring in a 3-0 win against Bolton which set the corks popping.

“There are always nerves going into games like those,” said Pugh. “The draw against Sheffield Wednesday put a bit of pressure on us going into the Bolton game.

“Matty Ritchie crossed the ball and I was up against Feens (Liam Feeney). He probably knew I was going to try to chop him but sometimes people know what you’re going to do but can’t stop it.

“I found the corner with my left foot, my swinger, and after we had scored the first goal, we knew there would be no way back for them.

“It was an amazing night and we had a great night out. Of course, we wanted to win the title but everybody went into town, the fans were buzzing and the celebrations will live long in the memory.

“We were all guns blazing against Charlton. There was no pressure on us because we were already promoted but we wanted to be champions.

“It was the highlight of my career because it got me to where I’d always to be.

"I had a lot of high and amazing moments in the Premier League and realised my ambition to play at that level.

“The Championship is a formidable division and to come out of it with so many good teams in there was what dreams are made of.

"It was by far the most important season I had as a player.”

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