A TRIP to Lancashire to play walking football for an Ellesmere team on Tuesday held a special place for a lifelong Preston North End (PNE) fan from the town.

Rob McBride, more known for his work as a tree expert, is also part of the Ellesmere Rangers walking football team at the age of 64, and this week, they faced PNE's own side.

Rob has supported the club all his life, even paying more than £4,000 to win a charity auction for a one-year contract in 2002, and he was delighted to make the trip.

And the club was boosted with a brand new kit courtesy of a £500 donation from Karl Hartey, from the Charlotte Hartey Foundation.

"One of the guys knew my background with Preston so he arranged a game with their walking football team and we were able to go up in the new kit," he said.

Whitchurch Herald: Rob McBride.Rob McBride. (Image: Rob McBride.)

"We had Charlotte's name on the back.

"I've been playing walking football for about three years, interspersed with injuries – in a Market Drayton tournament, an 18-stone fella tripped and fell on me breaking my ribs.

"Another there, I tore a calf muscle by playing too many games at once and on Tuesday, I may have broken my finger because I was in goal.

"Alan Davis is the team manager and he drove us up there, and Nigel Williams organised the event.

"I haven't visited all the areas before but they took us everywhere; the Tom Finney Stand holds all the suites, the lounges where you can buy a table for the year and meet the PNE greats.

"We went into Ryan Lowe's matchday office and had a look, and went in the home dressing room.

"We weren't allowed to take pictures because the tactics were still up.

"In Ellesmere, there's about 50 Leeds fans who ask me 'how's Preston-nil' doing?' because we don't score, but we scored three against Norwich last weekend.

"I haven't been to a game for a while because of Covid and the rising fuel prices but it was one of the best days of my life."

Whitchurch Herald: Rob McBride. Rob McBride. (Image: Rob McBride.)

Rob admitted he was emotional on the day, triggering memories of his elder brother Peter who died after PNE's 2015 play-off win, which was commemorated around the ground.

And he was moved to remember Charlotte, who died aged 16 in 2009.

"Obviously it's a massive thanks to Karl and the foundation," he said.

"I used to do his garden at the time that Charlotte died and I knew her personally.

"It's quite poignant – I used to to Ellesmere Rangers girls team, about 10 or 15 years ago, and Karl gave us a donation for that.

"I know him well, and my son is a director for his firm and my daughter works there too, so there's a lot of family connections.

"I have a lot of time for him."