Hats off to PNE supporters

Preston North End's 10th Gentry Day will see its best support yet this weekend.

Thursday, 10th March 2016, 2:00 pm
PNE fans pass the Sir Tomy Finney flag over their heads during last year's Gentry Day at Barnsley

More than 4,200 PNE fans are ready to make the short hop down the M61 for the derby clash with Bolton.

Tickets for the away end at the Macron Stadium were sold out in a matter of days.

An initial allocation of 3,759 seats went quickly, with Bolton then sending another 500 tickets.

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This the closest to home that supporters have staged Gentry Day, with London, Tyneside and Yorkshire being previous hosts.

The day is unique to North End, with many fans wearing bowler hats to honour supporters and former PNE players who have passed away in the past 12 months.

Alan Ball Snr christened Preston followers the ‘Gentry’ in 1970 – that coming in the early part of the 1970/71 Third Division title-winning season.

Fans of that era responded by wearing bowler hats and suits for away games, the support certainly being the best dressed of the time.

In February 2005, The Gentry was resurrected in memory of Preston fan John Tracey, who was part of the original Gentry in the 70s.

A group of fans organised a ‘Return of the Gentry’ for an away game at Queens Park Rangers.

North End won 2-1 that day at Loftus Road, with Chris Lucketti and David Nugent scoreing the goals.

There was a three-year gap until the next Gentry Day in 2008, that again taking place at QPR’s ground.

While off the pitch, the occasion has grown and grown, on it, Preston have not had too much success.

That 2005 win is the only time they have taken three points on Gentry Day.

North End drew 2-2 the second time around at QPR, and then had a 0-0 draw against Charlton at The Valley in 2009.

The Lilywhites lost at Newcastle, Hull, Sheffield Wednesday and Brentford (twice), the losing run halted last year when PNE drew 1-1 with Barnsley at Oakwell.

So can Saturday be the time when the players join in with the spirit of the day and come home with three points?

The North End supporters who go to Bolton will all have someone in their thoughts, a friend or relative with who they used to watch games with.

That is the spirit of Gentry Day, first and foremost, to remember those no longer with us.

Former Preston players will be remembered too. Since Gentry Day last year, a number of players who wore the white shirt with distinction, have passed away.

Ernie Hannigan, Tommy Thompson, Howard Kendall, Fred Else and Joe Marston are among those sadly no longer with us. So too ex-North End chairman Keith Leeming, who passed away in September.

He was chairman for 12 years between 1982 and 1994, serving on the board as a director too.

Opponents Bolton have had a reflective week themselves, Wednesday being the 70th anniversary of the Burnden Park disaster when 33 fans died.

Wanderers wore a one-off blue third kit without sponsorship branding in their 2-2 draw with Ipswich on Tuesday night.