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Q & A with Villarreal’s Thomas McIlroy about Villarreal CF and the COVID crisis

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We catch up with friend of the site Thomas about how things are going in Vila-real.

Thomas Mcilroy is a huge part of why I love Villarreal CF. He’s the International Content Creator at the club and he sends out a regular e-mail newsletter keeping us all up to date on the latest of what’s going on. He has helped our site in numerous ways (including appearing on our podcast) and frankly he’s the first person I think of when the name of the club comes up because he represents them so very well. I sent Thomas a few questions about how things are going over in Spain, and I greatly appreciate him being kind enough to answer:

Q1: First of all, how are you and your loved ones doing? Everyone safe and holding up? I know these distancing situations are extremely stressful.

I’m well and am in my apartment in Castellón, about a 20-minute drive from Vila-real. My family are back in the UK but are all safe. Everyone I work with at Villarreal CF is safe and in their homes too, and we’re all being responsible and following the instructions from the Spanish authorities.

Q2: We are reading new reports coming out of Spain every day and we know Villarreal has shut down all first team activities, how is this lockdown affecting the other day to day operations of the club and specifically the employees who make all the day to day aspects of the club function?

We have shut down all first-team activities, in fact we have shut down all sporting activities. The teams are all still in touch with the club though and each player and team has a plan to stay in shape during this difficult period. In terms of the backroom staff, we’re working remotely. I work primarily with the International Department and we have daily video conferences to stay in touch, and we are speaking throughout the day, as I am with other colleagues from different departments. Communication is the key for sure, and we all need to make sure everyone stays informed of what’s going on while we’re working from home. Working from home isn’t easy - you can’t just comment something to a colleague by you in the office, you need to make more of an effort, but it is something we’re adapting to and it’s a challenge for us to face and overcome.

Q3: I know your department stays in contact with the different Villarreal academies all over the globe. What are you hearing from them and what impacts of this virus are they facing?

We have been speaking to the different Villarreal academies across the world. The majority I believe have stopped all sporting activities at the moment due to the COVID-19 pandemic as obviously the health of everyone involved in the Villarreal family, whether it be players, coaches, staff or fans is important. But that doesn’t mean we’ve stopped working with them at all. We’re working with the academies for tips on how to stay in shape while at home, and focusing not just on physical fitness but mental health too. We’ve been in touch with the academy directors every day so they know we will give them the support they need during this tough moments. As I’ve said before, we don’t want to put our ‘Villarreal brand’ on an academy and leave them be. We’re hugely involved with helping our academies develop, and that won’t stop because of coronavirus, we’ll just find other ways to help them. We’ve recently launched the #VillarrealFamilyChallenge on Instagram, a challenge that underlines Villarreal’s commitment to our academies around the world and our family values.

Q4: What are the local authorities saying about the prospective length of the lockdown in Vila-real?

At the moment, all decisions are now national ones. We have been on lockdown since last Sunday for 15 days originally. However, the Spanish minister for transport, José Luis Abalos, said on Monday it will probably last longer than 15 days to allow the country to win the battle against the coronavirus. We’re all prepared to make these sacrifices for as long as possible for the greater good of society here.

Q5: What can the international Villarreal fan community do to help those in Spain?

Just stay in touch with us on social media, we love hearing from you, reading your comments, your support and why you love Villarreal, stay in touch with us and send positive comments to us and to our players because we really appreciate it!

Q6: Anything else you’d like us to know?

We know this situation may be frustrating for many, but here at Villarreal we’re still working, despite not really being able to leave the house in Spain. We can’t wait to be back, but we’re respecting the decisions of those responsible for healthcare in Spain and we will keep on adapting to stay in touch during these tough times. And if you want to know more about the club’s history, we’re publishing various stories from across our history on the website at the moment. It’s a great time to learn about some crucial moments in our past! I’ve already learned a few things I didn’t know. And stay safe! Oh and when this is all over and any of our international fans are coming to visit the club, get in touch with us – drop us a DM at @Eng_Villarreal, it would be great to meet you!

Editor’s note, a club of Villarreal’s prestige inviting you to DM them if you’re coming for a visit is not something that happens on a regular basis. It’s just one part of what makes this club so great, they always have a personal touch, they invest in people.

Closing thoughts

I love how again and again, Thomas comes back to communication. Listening to local authorities, reaching out to coworkers, helping international academies, social media initiatives, inviting people to reach out if they’re ever in Vila-real, etc. People first. It’s brilliant, it is what makes football so special, and it is what makes Villarreal as a club a shining star in the constellation of football clubs around the world. Thank you, Thomas, for answering a few of our questions, I hope you and yours stay safe and well. Endavant!