WEB EXCLUSIVE: Preston North End’s Club Historian is the Man behind the Stats

Club historians are often elusive characters and  most fans assume that they spend all their time in libraries researching random and somewhat unnecessary statistics.

Ian Rigby, lifelong Preston fan, has made it his life’s aim to know everything about the Lilywhites and on 31 January 2009 his dedication was recognised by the club as they gave him the title of Club Historian.

The 66-year-old breaks the library-going stereotype and has managed to sustain his dedication while running his family window blind business.

He loves his role and, as a local lad, is proud that he has been able to make an impact at his home town club.

Rigby recalled how his love for Preston North End began, saying: “Growing up near Deepdale we were the last family in our street to get a TV set.

“I used to go to my Aunties to watch sport on her telly and it was with my Auntie and my Mum that I first started to go onto Deepdale to watch PNE.

“That was around 1963 when the team reached the FA cup final and nearly won promotion too.

Sir TomI.R John McCann and Frank Hastie

Rigby pitchside with his idol Sir Tom Finney

“My Auntie also worked at the nearby Royal Infirmary and with the hospital radio broadcasting the matches played at Deepdale, programmes were also supplied to the listeners and she always brought me one home before the game.”

Rigby has been a consistent contributor to North End’s matchday programme for over thirty years.

He wrote in when the club appealed for ideas for their content and 35-years later he is still supplying the media team with content.

Describing how he got involved, he said: “At the end of the 1982-1983 season the programme editor asked if any supporters had any suggestions regarding the following season’s programme.

“I wrote in and out of the blue got a reply.

“They liked my idea but wanted to know if I would/could write the article for them. I did and nearly every season since have had some kind of input.”

After joining the club, Rigby found that he knew more than their staff and started a petition to change the club’s badge.

He argued that he had on record that PNE had played their first game in 1878 while playing their first competitive fixture in 1880, one year earlier than the ‘1881’ on the badge.

He said: “In 1981 the Club celebrated its ‘centenary’ and one afternoon I asked the Club the question ‘When was North End’s first game?’

“The answer came back from the secretary ‘We don’t actually know’.

“From then I started my research into the club’s early days and to my surprise found the first game in 1878.

“Since then more and more facts and figures have been found and errors made good.

 Rigby enjoyed the experience of research and made it his past time.

“Research gradually became a hobby and then, some would say, an obsession,” he explained.

“For years, all the record books wrote that Jimmy Ross once scored seven goals for Preston in the 7-0 win over Stoke.

“I found that he only scored the first four goals and nowadays that fact has been deleted from record books.

“It is all about reading up and having an interest in the subject.”

Over 35 years of working closely with Preston, Rigby grew close to their media team.

He began to get access to matches helping out and covering the games.

“I used to go around the country helping out with the Club’s official video team and around the same time the local newspaper employed a new sports writer to cover the North End games.

“To cut a long story short we all travelled to away games together and always got talking ‘North End’.

“Anything he wanted to know he would ask and eventually called me ‘the club’s unofficial historian’.”

In January 2009 PNE recognised his contribution to the club and gave him the title of ‘Club Historian.’

Rigby had no idea about he was going to be recognised for his efforts.

He described what happened, saying: “Anyway, one Christmas my daughter, unbeknown to me, wrote to the chairman, Derek Shaw, saying it would be good if they could make me “official” and low and behold they agreed.

“I was presented with a certificate on the pitch with all the family present.

“It was such a proud moment for me and I have continued to help out to this day.”

Ben Rhodes, the Club Secretary at Preston North End, paid tribute to Rigby.

“Ian’s passion for the club and knowledge of its history is second to none,” Rhodes said.

“He can always be counted upon to provide information or facts about even the most random moments or players from the club’s past.

“He really is a treasure for the football club and one whose voluntary efforts are never underestimated or taken for granted.”

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