PNE kit man Russ’s Euro pedigree

Preston North End kitman Russ Rigby gathers in the' practice footballs 'at Deepdale

Preston North End kitman Russ Rigby gathers in the' practice footballs 'at Deepdale

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BEHIND THE SCENES

Bearing in mind that Russ Rigby did not start working in football until past his 50th birthday, he has experienced an enjoyable and varied two decades in the game.

Rigby is in his second spell as Preston’s kitman and has been a loyal servant of Bamber Bridge too.

It was the link between Brig and North End which took him to Deepdale in the first place.

And his time at Irongate also saw him involved in one of the most remarkable evenings in Brig’s history.

Rigby was groundsman, football secretary and kitman when a chance telephone call landed the non-league side with a friendly against the Czech Republic ahead of Euro ’96.

“I took a call from the manager at the Marriott Hotel in Preston where the Czech Republic based themselves in the build-up and during the European Championships,” Rigby told the Evening Post.

“His words were, ‘Do you fancy playing the Czech Republic’?

“It was safe to say that I nearly dropped the phone in surprise.

“He explained that Preston North End had put him in touch with me. They had been offered the game but did not want it for whatever reason.

“We agreed to play them and there was a visit from officials of the Czech FA, with faxes and phone calls to sort everything out.

“On the night of the game the ground was packed solid and it was a great occasion.

“People who weren’t there phoned me up later to see what the score was. When I told them 9-1 they asked, ‘Who to?’ and my answer was, ‘Who do you think?’

“Czech Republic might have scored nine but our goal was an absolute belter.”

Rigby, brought up in Wesham and a PNE fan since he was a young lad, only got involved in football as a job in his early fifties.

“I took early retirement when I was 52 and at the time was helping to look after the pitch at Bamber Bridge,” said Rigby.

“The chairman of the time, Dennis Allen, asked me to go full-time with them and I quickly agreed to that.

“I was groundsman, kitman and secretary rolled into one and those were great times, so enjoyable.

“North End used to play their reserve games at Brig and I got to know David Moyes, Kelham O’Hanlon and Baz Rathbone from the reserves being there.

“In the 2000/01 season, David asked me if I would come and work at Preston. I had always been a North End fan so I took up his offer.

“I was there until the end of Paul Simpson’s first season in charge.

“That summer I went back to Bamber Bridge, looking after their kit and the changing rooms, just helping around the place.”

There was to be a return to Deepdale for Rigby a couple of summers ago and he is now a fully-fledged member of Simon Grayson’s staff.

Said Rigby: “I got a call out of the blue from Peter Ridsdale. At the time I was on my way to Morrison’s with my wife to do the shopping.

“To cut a long story short, he asked me would I come back to help with the kit.

“I met Peter and Kevin Abbott in Starbucks at the Deepdale Retail Park and I took up their offer.

“I’m 73 now but I still get a buzz from the job. When I reach the ground on a matchday it almost feels like I’m playing.

“How it is at the moment with Simon Grayson, Glynn Snodin, John Dreyer and Alan Kelly, we are all one unit and it is great to be a part of that.

“Before one game last season, Simon had done his team-talk when he turned to me and said, ‘Old ’un, what have you got to say to the lads?’

“I just said, ‘Give 110%, help each other and when in doubt put it in Row Z’!

“It is an honour to work at Preston – this is a great club with a superb set of lads and staff.”