It’s the kind of commitment that London Welsh head coach Justin Burnell might want to see from his players, only this time it came from one of the club’s supporters.
Having broken his leg playing rugby just 24 hours earlier, Exiles fan Mark Birdseye, 52, could have been forgiven for taking it easy and watching Welsh’s Greene King IPA Championship clash with Nottingham from the comfort of his sofa, especially as the game was live on Sky Sports.
Instead, with his leg in a full cast and ignoring the pain, Mark embarked on a 330-mile round trip to cheer the Exiles on to a 46-19 win at Meadow Lane, before returning to hospital later in the week for surgery.
“It was painful and a struggle but it was a good day out and we got a good result,” said Mark. “I met a nice crowd of people on the supporters’ coach who helped me.
“I’d made plans to go to the Nottingham game and I don’t like being beaten by adversity. I thought if the hospital sent me back then I must be alright to venture out. Looking back I think it was worth it.”
It’s a story which has even drawn praise from London Welsh head coach Justin Burnell. He said: “I come across a lot of people with a passion for the game of rugby, but this is taking it to another level. It’s absolutely amazing.
“As a club we’re very lucky to have supporters like Mark who are willing to go to such lengths, in such circumstances, to follow the team. I’m delighted we were able to get a win for him to make it all worth while.”
The Horsham 3rd XV player broke his leg after volunteering to line for the club’s opposition, Hastings and Bexhill 3rd XV, who were short of numbers.
After suffering the injury Mark was immediately taken to the Urgent Treatment Centre in Crawley and then East Surrey Hospital, Redhill, where X-rays confirmed a tibial plateau fracture to his right leg, and that surgery would be required.
However, as there was no possibility of surgery taking place until the following Monday at the earliest, Mark was discharged from hospital in the early hours of Sunday morning with his leg in a full plaster cast.
Despite no sleep, Mark then set about making his way from his Southwater home in West Sussex to Old Deer Park, Richmond, via a combination of taxis, trains and buses, to catch the supporters’ club coach to Nottingham. A 330-mile round trip that saw him finally arrive home at 1am on Monday morning.
A lifelong London Welsh supporter, Mark’s connection to the club go back to his grandfather [Jack Jones] and great uncle [Dick Jones], who both played for Welsh in the 1920s. Dick was also capped once by Wales, in 1929 against England.