Kit man making a Gentry return

Alan Ball Snr and his Preston North End squad
Alan Ball Snr and his Preston North End squad
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Preston’s Gentry are getting ready to turn out in force at Fulham on Saturday and one of them will be sat in the away dug out.

PNE kit man and lifelong supporter Steve Cowell saw every game of the 1970/71 Third Division title-winning season when Alan Ball Snr christened North End fans as the ‘Gentry’.

Cowell was a teenager in that memorable season which saw Preston dramatically beat already-promoted Fulham at Craven Cottage in the penultimate game of the season and then win the title three days later by beating Rotherham at Deepdale.

“I went to every game that season with my best friend John Tracey,” said Cowell.

“We would hitchhike, go on the coach or train, one way or another we got there.

“It was the first time Preston had been relegated to the Third Division and the board appointed Alan Ball.

“He had done wonders at Halifax and they were one of our promotion rivals that 
season because of the work Ball had done there.

“A few years ago I went to a reunion which the squad had and the players told me that Ball got them incredibly fit.

“We had two good strikers in Gerry 
Ingram and Bobby Ham, and slowly and surely, the results came.

“Ball called us the Gentry and some fans started wearing bowler hats and crombie coats for matches.

“I remember at Fulham lots of lads walking by the Thames to Craven Cottage dressed up to the nines.

“Fulham was the natural choice for Gentry Day this year and let’s hope that history can repeat itself with a win.”

For previous Gentry Days, Cowell has been in the away end but this time will take his place on the bench.

He said: “ I told Jordan Hugill that when he scored at Bolton last year, I was behind the goal wearing bowler hat.

“The lads are all interested in Gentry Day and how it all came about.”