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Loyalty is a “big thing” for Boreham Wood boss Luke Garrard and on Saturday he wants to repay the support shown by his chairman, Danny Hunter, by guiding the club to the fourth-round of the FA Cup for the first time.
When the Covid-19 pandemic hit in 2020, Hunter immediately informed everyone at Boreham Wood they would be paid 100 per cent of their salary - despite football shutting down.
Staff had their weekly food shop bought for them too, with Hunter having it delivered to the training ground so they didn’t have to run the risk of catching the virus by going into supermarkets.
In the end, Hunter had to remortgage his house to cover the cost of the pandemic, but Garrard insists Saturday’s FA Cup tie with AFC Wimbledon isn’t about paying off some of those costs.
“He did have to remortgage his house, but he will tell you that this cup run isn’t to fill the void,” Garrard tells Standard Sport.
“This cup run is to create memories. He keeps saying, the years are going by now and the things that make him tick are memories and magic moments.
“I just want to give him another one on Saturday to repay in one small way what he’s done for me, my family and the people within this football club.”
Garrard has experienced loyalty elsewhere during his career, namely at Saturday’s opponents. The former midfielder spent four years at AFC Wimbledon during his playing days, becoming a cult hero for episodes such as keeping a clean sheet when forced to go in goal for a half due to an injury crisis.
They were the early days of the Dons, when the club had just reformed, and Garrard holds them close to his heart.
He remains in a huge WhatsApp group with many of the players from that time and, pre-Covid, Christmas drinks were a regular occurrence as they would recall the good times spent winning the Isthmian League and the Conference South together.
“I remember beating Hampton to win the Conference South, we all went back to Wimbledon and there were two pubs packed side by side,” says Garrard.
“We were all on the tables with our shirts off, scarfs around our heads, singing with the fans. It was that type of club.
“We are never going to be the Crazy Gang and I am not alluding to that in any way shape or form, but if the fans were to say who is the nearest group to being that, it would’ve been when they started out in 2002 all the way to 2008.
“I have a great affiliation with that club. I absolutely love that club. The measure of them is, when I ruptured my ACL, they rang me up on the day of getting the news and offered me a new two-year deal. That shows they are a class club.”
Garrard hasn’t forgotten gestures like that by Dons and it is telling that when one of his own players, Kane Smith, ruptured his ACL, Boreham Wood offered him a new two-year deal.
We have galvanised the community with this cup run - and that’s what it is about.
“I know how he felt because I was him eight, 10 years ago,” says Garrard. “There are a load of things you learn through your career that stick with you. Loyalty is a big thing in football.”
Garrard insists “the love affair” with AFC Wimbledon stops tomorrow as he looks to guide Boreham Wood to the fourth-round.
It has not been easy preparing this week, given the surge in coronavirus cases, with things like analysis sessions having to take place on Zoom in people’s cars.
Thankfully, fans can still be present at Meadow Park for Saturday’s game, which wasn’t the case last year when Boreham Wood hosted Millwall at the same stage.
“We got to the third-round for the first time in the club’s history, but it felt false,” says Garrard. “It felt eerie coming out against Millwall.
“We have galvanised the community with this cup run - and that’s what it is about. And I want to give them another moment, another memory.
“Let’s be honest, Covid is horrible and if we can give 10 per cent of that crowd a moment to take to their grave, then we’ve done our job. I honestly believe that.”