Dave Seddon's PNE pressview: Preston North End to pay a fitting tribute to our custodian - Trevor Hemmings CVO
Much of Monday was pretty routine from a work and home perspective.
On the football front, Preston North End adding Joe Rafferty to their 25-man squad was the main piece of news in daylight hours.
Dad’s taxi sign went on the car to run my daughter to and from her dance class, then the usual late tea on a Monday – a chippy one to celebrate 18 years of wedded bliss between Mrs Seddon and myself.
A text message deep into the evening was to alert me to a rumour circulating, one you just hoped was no more than just that.
Sadly, the story was confirmed by Preston North End in a short and dignified statement – that Trevor Hemmings had passed away that evening, aged 86.
The black and white photo accompanying the statement summed the man up perfectly. Football in one hand, the other hand on the peak of his flat cap.
It was taken on the day PNE’s owner opened the redevelopment of Rainbow House in Mawdsley – a school for children with disabilities – back in 2015.
The work with Rainbow House was a project close to his heart, as were so many other charities with him.
Charity, football and horse racing were three loves of Mr Hemmings’ life.
To use the phrase PNE’s world was turned upside down on Monday evening, might perhaps be a touch over dramatic.
But the club was rocked to the core by its leader’s passing, the boss for the last 11 years and a constant figure in the background for 48 years in total, taken away so suddenly.
The outpouring of grief from so many connected with the Lilywhites over the last few days is testament to what he has done for the club over the years. That grief extended to the rest of football, with tributes coming thick and fast from other clubs.
Rivalries were put aside, the sport recognise it had lost a great man.
There was the same reaction in the horse racing world. Hemmings turned his interest to the sport of kings when his doctor advised him to get a hobby away from work.
Most of us in his position would have perhaps chosen an occasion round of golf or a stroll in the park.
Mr Hemmings turned his hobby into a success story, three times a Grand National winner.
If there is comfort for the Hemmings family at this sad time, it will have come from how the PNE fans reacted.
On Wednesday morning, the club announced Derby at home would be a fiver a go.
All money raised to be donated to the charities Hemmings did so much work for – rarely courting any sort of publicity.
The PNE faithful have gone above and beyond.
Supporters who might not have gone to the game normally, now are doing.
Some who already had tickets, bought more and donated them to the PNE Community and Education Trust to distribute to those for who a ticket is normally beyond reach.
Preston North End fans are the Gentry. Here is further proof of that.
Saturday’s game will go beyond 90 minutes of football, it’s a chance to respect and celebrate the life of Trevor Hemmings.
His passing was sudden, less than a week before he was sat at PNE’s Euxton training ground, enjoying the company of Frankie McAvoy as domestic football took a break during the international break.
On Tuesday this week, he was due to fly over again for a catch-up with Peter Ridsdale, his advisor on all matters football for the past decade.
Sadly he didn’t make the meeting and no more will he grace the Euxton training ground, built on a small part of the site of the sprawling Royal Ordnance munitions factory which brought Hemmings’ father to Lancashire from London when the PNE owner was a young boy.
As I referenced earlier, he was a private man.
Home games before the pandemic hit, were watched quietly from the seats in front of his executive box in the Invincibles.
Not that Mr Hemmings wasn’t passionate about what he was seeing, Ridsdale’s mobile phone red hot after games which hadn’t gone well.
Rarely did he give interviews, the horse racing media probably getting slightly more of those due to his successes at Aintree and many other venues.
In my role I spoke to him perhaps a dozen times, no more. He was good company when meetings were in person, the Rainbow House opening displaying his clear passion for charity.
A few calls came from him slightly out of the blue, mainly because he was wanted to praise the work of others at PNE.
One call was to dismiss some speculation in a tabloid that he was selling up. Let’s just say his views were blunt on that particular one.
He leaves a legacy of a Championship club on solid foundations. They have no external debt and own their training ground.
What happens moving forward is something for later, grief and emotion is still raw and will be for some time to come.
A ‘business as usual’ mantra came from McAvoy’s pre-match press conference on Thursday morning.
Plans will have been put in place for when this time came. You don’t own a club for as long as he did and invest in it, not thinking about the longer term.
Some day Preston North End could leave the Hemmings family ownership but for now that is speculation.
The focus is on Deepdale on Saturday afternoon, on filling seats and taking a minute or two to quietly reflect on the life of Trevor Hemmings – all 86 years of it.
This is still very much part of his chapter as the custodian of Preston North End and will be for some time.
Every extra seat sold for Derby’s visit, every £5 which goes to charity, will be a fitting way to remember Trevor James Hemmings CVO, 1935 to 2021.
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