Dave Seddon’s press view

GENTLEMAN GEORGE: PNE legend George Ross, who passed away last weekend, with good friend and ex-North End skipper Ian Bryson (left) at the final whistle of last seasons play-off final win at Wembley
GENTLEMAN GEORGE: PNE legend George Ross, who passed away last weekend, with good friend and ex-North End skipper Ian Bryson (left) at the final whistle of last seasons play-off final win at Wembley
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Something to cling on to amid the shock and sadness of George Ross’ passing, was the fact that some of his final hours were spent at a place he had so much love for – Deepdale.

For 58 years, George had a cast-iron association with Preston North End.

While his upbringing came north of the border in Inverness, from the age of 15 he called Preston home.

That is when he joined the Lilywhites as an apprentice and from then on, the club never left him.

George made 441 league and cup appearances in a Preston shirt, plus a number of friendlies, testimonials and tour matches.

He was chairman of the PNE Former Players’ Association at its inception in 1998, holding the role until a couple of years or so ago.

On match days, he was a host – and a very good one at that – in the executive boxes and lounges.

You could describe him as a club ambassador, just without the official title.

Last Saturday, he worked as normal as PNE took on Leeds, a game which brought the curtain down on the season.

He will have shaken many hands that afternoon, shared a chat with plenty of supporters and guests.

My brother spoke to him in the Invincibles Lounge, George casting his mind back to a game in 1963/64 when Preston and Leeds kicked lumps out of one another.

It got so bad that the referee called the two captains together and threatened to call the game off unless things calmed down.

George recalled with a smile how an hour after the game, players from both sides were sat in the pub having a pint or two together.

How very sad that within a few hours of doing the job he loved so much, he had passed away, far too soon.

As a journalist, I met and spoke to George many times.

Memories of the 1964 FA Cup Final, the 1970/71 Third Division title-winning season, the 1960 FA Youth Cup final were shared by him and turned into print.

He was the first person I spoke to after Sir Tom Finney’s passing in 2014, George readily admitting that he was ‘in bits’ at the news.

My favourite chat with him came at Wembley last May.

He arrived with former PNE skipper Ian Bryson and club host Simon Crabtree, sat in among the North End supporters.

Wembley had been knocked down, re-built and repositioned since George graced its hallowed turf 51 years earlier.

But he still worked out his bearings in relation to where the pitch would have been in 1964 and where his great friend Alan Kelly Snr would have been stood.

George’s time in Preston’s first-team spanned all the 1960s and into the 1970s.

His debut came against Nottingham Forest on Boxing Day 1960, with him playing again in the New Year’s Eve clash with Cardiff.

Nine days into 1961, he was back in the team for an FA Cup replay with Accrington Stanley and then a First Division clash with West Bromwich.

That was it for that season but the following campaign, he made 40 appearances.

Many of those games in 61/62 and indeed the next season, came in the No.3 shirt.

He scored in successive games in November 1962, his only other North End goal coming in December 1966.

From 63/64 onwards, he made the No.2 jersey his.

George was an ever-present as Preston reached the FA Cup final.

He only missed a handful of games the next season, Bert Patrick his replacement in those rare absences.

Like any footballer, his time at Deepdale had its disappointments, relegation from the Second Division in 1970 being one of them.

North End bounced straight back under Alan Ball Snr, with Ross starting 43 of the 46 games of the title-winning season.

George left Deepdale as a player in 1973 but was back later in the year for his testimonial game.

His ‘all-star’ side which took on PNE that night included Gordon Banks, Bobby Charlton, Geoff Hurst, Franny Lee and Lou Macari.

When the time is right, I hope that a lasting tribute can be made to George’s contribution to North End.

Some fine servants of Preston North End, on and off the pitch, have been lost to us over the past 12 months.

George Ross sadly joins their number and he will be missed by so many people.

He was tough as nails on the football pitch, a gentleman off it, serving a fine football club for more than half a century with such distinction.