IN the 1980s, Preston were at the forefront of football’s programme to establish links with the community.
The Lilywhites were one of six clubs chosen in 1986 to set up a community department.
In charge of it at Deepdale was former PNE centre-back Mick Baxter.
He was community officer for three years until his untimely death aged only 32.
Over the years, North End have built on the hard work and dedication which Baxter put in, growing the community programme to what it is now.
Members of his family, including wife Janet and son Ross, were guests of the club for the home game against Brighton.
They toured the community department at Deepdale and were impressed with the developments which have taken place.
Mick’s son, Ross, said: “It was fantastic for us to go back.
“It was the first time my mum had been back since my dad passed away.
“For us to see how the community department has progressed since then is something my mum and myself take great pride in.
“She still remembers the old place so my mum had mixed emotions about coming back.
“She wondered whether anybody would even remember us but they definitely did.
“We spoke to Trevor Hemmings, who remembered my dad, while Simon Nash who is Deepdale Duck, also recognised us.
“During the visit we bumped into Alan Kelly, which was really special for us as he was one of my dad’s coffin bearers.
“They all remembered him and that meant a lot to us – it is testament to the club and my dad that he is still remembered to this day.”
Andy Haythornthwaite, head of community at North End, said: “Mick played an integral role in the early stages of the foundation here.
“He is responsible for shaping a department that we know and can be proud of today.
“We were more than happy to welcome his family to Deepdale for a tour and it was great to see his affinity for the club he represented so admirably, lives on.”
Birmingham-born Baxter joined North End as a youngster in the 1970s, his older brother Stuart already being at the club.
His first-team debut came as an 18-year-old against Grimsby late in the 1974/75 campaign.
He went on to make 227 appearances for PNE and missed only one game in the 1977/78 season when North End won promotion from the Third Division.
Baxter left Deepdale in the summer of 1981 after Preston’s relegation from the Second Division, joining Middlesbrough for £425,000.
After three years at Boro, he signed for Portsmouth but a serious illness forced him to retire before he could play for Pompey.
He returned to Preston in his community officer capacity and his untimely death in 1989 came after he collapsed on the Deepdale pitch shortly after conducting a coaching session.