Trevor Hemmings' 48-year association with Preston North End and the legacy he leaves behind
The tributes poured in as news of the sudden death of Preston North End owner and three times Grand National winner Trevor Hemmings was digested.
Of the many, one struck a particular cord and perhaps best summed up Hemmings' association with PNE.
North End fan Jonny Nelson posted on Twitter: "A man we called uncle, but was more like a dad. A steady hand on the wheel, that didn’t let us down when we needed him the most.
"A tremendous legacy to leave, at a club that will remember him forever.
"Rest in peace Sir Trev. Doffing my cloth cap."
He was later to clarify that Hemmings was not knighted, hence the 'Sir' tag being inaccurate.
But in many ways he was a knight who rode to PNE's rescue at their hour of need and kept Preston North End firmly on the straight and narrow.
'Uncle Trev' was a nickname I'd heard many times, especially when fans spoke of his cash injections into the club.
It was a term of affection for many, an acknowledgement of a man in his later years making sure PNE were in good health.
Running a football club is an expensive business, these days you need the wealth of a state behind you to be at the top of the game.
Hemmings might not have pumped in money to the extent some owners have done in chasing the dream but the fact Preston North End stand on their own two feet in the Championship is testament to him.
Share issues since he bought the club in 2010 have totalled nearly £40m and there has been investment well beyond that figure out of the public gaze.
Hemmings' association with PNE began in April 1973 when he joined the board as vice-chairman - Alan Jones having taken over as chairman.
He was aged 37, known locally as a property developer. His arrival on the board saw him pledge £60,000 to underpin an overdraft facility.
Over the years he maintained an interest in the club, often from a position in the background, holding a number of shares during the Baxi ownership.
Before his ownership started, he had put his hand in his pocket as a major shareholder in the club.
In June 2010, Hemmings made his move to buy PNE, buying up shares from supporters and business people who had bought them when the club was floated on the Alternative Investment Market in the mid 1990s.
The offer of 5p per share was not universally popular but he bought more than enough to become the outright owner.
After briefly having Maurice Lindsay as chairman, Hemmings brought in Peter Ridsdale to run the club from day to day in December 2011.
Ridsdale was his football representative, inside and outside the club.
The bump in the road in Hemmings' ownership had come in April 2011 with relegation from the Championship.
It took four years to get back to the second tier, with North End now in their seventh successive season at this level.
To keep them competitive in the division, to meet the wage bill, there have been steady investments via share issues.
Those investments became more regular during the pandemic to ensure PNE kept going in an era when not a single fan was able to set foot through the Deepdale turnstiles for the best part of 17 months.
Hemmings did want to see North End in the Premier League one day but wanted to do that through sensible investment rather than throwing money at it.
He was heavily committed to the club. Although based in the Isle of Man, his presence was always felt at Deepdale and latterly at Euxton where PNE's administrative wing is based alongside the playing side of things.
Pre-pandemic, he made regular visits to Deepdale to meet with staff, flying over by helicopter.
He watched the home games from an executive box in the Invincibles Pavilion. When PNE were away, Hemmings viewed via a live stream and regular phone calls were made by the hierarchy to him.
The pandemic stopped him making the trips for a while but in recent weeks the visits to Euxton had re-started.
Not long since, Hemmings stood in the car park having a chat with the recently-signed Ali McCann.
Preston North End will now enter a new era. Hemmings will have made sure the club is looked after.
In 2019 he appointed one of his sons, Craig, as PNE chairman. It was the addition of the family name to the board, a strengthening in many ways.
Craig is a visible presence at Euxton, Deepdale and wherever North End are playing.
There will be a time, quite soon, when questions are asked about what the next step is for Preston North End.
For now, though, this is a time for the family of Trevor Hemmings to mourn, to remember a father and a grandad.
His passing was unexpected, he'd been due a visit to Euxton this week.
Supporters will get to pay their respects on Saturday when North End host Derby County in the Championship.
The man they will be remembering, who had celebrated his 86th birthday in June, owned the club for 11 years and had an association going back so much longer.
May he rest in peace and be remembered fondly for what he did for PNE.
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