Deepdale landmark

Oshor Williams addresses the Invincibles Lounge on Friday night
Oshor Williams addresses the Invincibles Lounge on Friday night
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A landmark birthday was celebrated at Deepdale on Friday night.

The Preston North End Community and Education Trust, formerly the Sir Tom Finney Foundation, turned 30 with a special dinner in the Invincibles Lounge.

Invited guests learnt all about the range of work done in and around Preston by an organisation that caters for people as young as eight and as old as 80, focusing on participation, health and social inclusion.

The trust, a registered charity, has been rebranded as part of the anniversary to reflect an increasing emphasis on education, with 50 full-time students currently enrolled at Deepdale as part of the diploma and foundation degrees on offer.

Set up as one of six initial Football League community schemes back in 1986, as part of a bid to change the reputation of football clubs in a dark time for the beautiful game, North End’s offering has gone from strength to strength.

Led by head of community Andy Haythornthwaite, in 2015 the trust coached 1,907 primary school children and got 360 new girls playing football.

Six weeks of summer soccer schools have also just come to an end, with first-team players popping in every week.

In total, the first-team squad made 1,000 different appearances in and around the community last year.

Activities are for all ages though with walking football for the over 50s proving popular on a Friday morning.

On the night, former PNE front man Neil Mellor was one of the invited guests in his new role as an ambassador for the trust.

The PFA’s Oshor Williams also returned to Deepdale, the 1986-87 promotion-winning midfielder was part of the foundation in the early stages alongside its founder, another former player, the late Mick Baxter.

The ex-PNE defender died aged just 32 having acted as the club’s community officer for three years and his family were there on the night to help celebrate the work being done.

Gathered guests heard from youngsters who attended soccer schools, some of the 16 full-time members of staff and club chief executive John Kay amongst others, with last year’s Community Player of the Year Bailey Wright sending a message of congratulations on behalf of the first-team squad.

Other projects highlighted included the National Citizenship Service programme, which North End offers for 15 to 17-year-olds as teenagers undertake a range of activities in the local community.

This year’s cohort raised more than £800 for Deepdale-based charity Heartbeat.

Haythornthwaite said: “Whilst we move forward as the community and education trust, we remain committed to taking the values that have served us so well throughout the past 30 years into a new chapter for us.

“Education is a key component of the work we do here at the community trust, from us delivering the School Sports programme, to providing education opportunities such as level two and level three diplomas and a foundation degree, and we wanted to correspond that into our name.”