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Preston North End Fans Show Football Traditions Are Alive and Well with Gentry Celebrations

Wednesday 9th April 2014
Once every season, Preston North End fans choose to remember their fellow supporters who are no longer with us in a unique way that involves wearing bowler hats and suits to an away match. No, the Lancashire club doesn't have any connection to Homepride or the man behind the brand's logo, “Fred the Flour Grader” nor Charlie Chaplin or Winston Churchill for that matter. The tradition known as “Gentry Day” does however date back to a time when the way a man dressed denoted his status in society.

Whilst Preston fans would be the first to admit that the majority of them don't reside in the upper-classes or assume positions of nobility, former manager, Alan Ball Sr, suggested that PNE supporters were something special during a press conference in the early 70s. The father of the late 1966 World Cup winner, Alan Ball Jr, said “Preston fans are the best, they're the gentry”, a comment that resulted in many of the North End faithful begin turning up to games wearing bowler hats and suits.

The ironic trend dwindled on the Deepdale terraces following Ball's departure in 1973 but 32 years later in 2005, a group of Preston fans decided to resurrect the notion of the Gentry following the death of one of its original members who would attend matches in his best attire.

Following the inaugural “Return of the Gentry” nine years ago, the Preston Supporters Group together with the club's online community, PNE-Online.net, decided to make “Gentry Day” an annual event that allows North End fans to pay their respects to those supporters who have passed away during the previous 12 months by donning a bowler hat, with some still wearing suits!

“Gentry Day” is a fan led initiative that is fully endorsed by Preston North End Football Club and last year's event at Brentford saw the starting XI came out onto the pitch wearing bowler hats which they then gave supporters in the crowd.

It has quickly become one of the best attended away fixtures of the season and this year, Griffin Park will once again provide the stage for “Gentry Day” on Friday 18th April where over 1,500 supporters will travel to the capital to remember those that have passed away. However, this year's event will take on even greater significance following the death of the club's most famous son, Sir Tom Finney, in February. Considered by many to be one of the greatest players not only Preston but England has ever produced, Finney was a one club man, making 433 appearances for the Lilywhites and despite tremendous tributes already paid, the game against Brentford will give fans the opportunity to bid a final farewell to a true legend.

On the pitch, the players will be looking to keep their slim hopes of automatic promotion alive by beating the Bees but with a place in the playoffs already guaranteed, if Simon Grayson's men are to achieve promotion, it looks likely that they will have to do so at Wembley Stadium, on what would likely be an impromptu but biggest Gentry celebration to date.

In an age when a Sky TV subscription makes it is easy to forget that there is life outside of the comfort of an armchair or confines of some characterless chain pub; ‘hats off' to Preston fans for demonstrating that traditions in the beautiful game are alive and well. “ Gentry Day ” reinforces that there's a lot to be gained from supporting your local team rather than those ‘fans' who would have you believe football in 2014 begins and ends with the Premiership and Champions League.

Steve Chambers
Steve has been avid follower of Bristol City and trips to Ashton Gate since the mid 1990s have seen him fall in love with the club, but success has hardly been a regular emotion felt by him and twin that with England's failures he has not tasted to many exciting days as a football fan. However, he enjoys all parts of the "Beautiful Game" and whether it's a Champions League match or Conference clash, Steve enjoys watching the heat of the battle. Sport is certainly his passion, but football is the one that gets him excited the most and he will be looking to provide some informative, yet sometimes controversial pieces for you to enjoy as the reader.

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