BEFORE the blind passion of a local derby kicks in this afternoon, a nod of appreciation to the team down the road.

Football lost a good person this week in Preston North End owner, Trevor Hemmings, who sadly passed away at the age of 86.

Deepdale will be in mourning this afternoon as respects are paid before the game against Derby County to a man who had led the club for 11 years and been associated for nearly half a century.

A philanthropist, businessman and racehorse owner of some repute with three Grand National wins, Hemmings never courted publicity.

Indeed, a typically unshowy gesture towards Bolton Wanderers in 2019 shows why fans in these parts have been quick to recognised that their club too has lost a friend.

In April and May 2019, the financial situation at Bolton had deteriorated to the extent that some unpaid staff in the club and hotel could not afford to feed their families or pay for basic household items.

The Community Trust (now Bolton Wanderers in the Community) rallied to organise food and supply collections – effectively a foodbank – within the stadium to help out those who really had no other choice.

Of course, donations came in thick and fast from the local community, not to mention the town’s big businesses, like Warburton’s. It was an undertaking that should never have been necessary, but the way people pulled together at that moment showed exactly why this club pulled through in the end.

What may have gone unnoticed at the time, however, is how the ‘football family’ dug deep to help staff at the UniBol, not least our Lancastrian neighbours Preston.

Hemmings and his football advisor, Peter Ridsdale, made a number of donations, including shopping vouchers so that staff could go and purchase their own goods, and did so without any press release, tip off or thought for reflected praise.

Indeed, it was only when one of the grateful staff came forward to speak with me outside the stadium that we learned where some of the contributions had originated.

When The Bolton News had informed folk of Preston’s generosity, the club’s response was as classy as you’d like.

“It is not something that is ever done in an attempt to gain positive publicity and therefore all we would do in making a comment is to send our very best wishes to all the staff at Bolton Wanderers FC and hope that others similarly find it within themselves to support the staff in their hour of need.”

Bolton and Preston have a long history on the pitch, stretching back 146 games and 136 years, and that relatively straightforward gesture underlined the mutual respect between the two clubs.

Some Wanderers fans have responded in kind, buying tickets for today’s game at £5, knowing all gate receipts will be donated to charities which were championed by Hemmings, and donating them to members of The Gentry who would otherwise not have been able to attend.

Those simple gestures are what makes this a beautiful game.