Having already been acknowledged for his work on the pitch prior to the Burton Albion game on Saturday, departing midfielder John Welsh was also recognised for his work off the pitch after scooping Preston North End’s Community Player of the Year and PFA Community Champion Award for the 2017/18 season.
Sunday was a memorable day in more ways than one for Welsh after it was revealed last week that he would be leaving North End in the summer after six years at the club. As well as a guard of honour by both sets of players and a standing ovation from all four corners of the ground, Welsh was also presented with a commemorative shield by Alex Neil with the club keen to thank him for his leadership on and off the pitch.
After the game, Welsh was also announced as the club's PFA Community Champion for the 2017/18 season at the End of Season awards.
“I’m delighted to have received this award,” said Welsh in one of his last interviews as a Preston North End player after receiving the award.
“How can you not like going around and seeing kids and putting a smile on their face? I’ve got kids at home and I’d love for them to be meeting players they look up to and who they go and watch. I’m local to Liverpool obviously and if a Liverpool player walked in and put a smile on their face I’m sure that’s all they’d talk about.
"You get asked for pictures and kids asking you all sorts of ridiculous questions that are quite funny at times. It’s nothing but fun - I enjoy doing it and always have done and a lot of the lads enjoy it.
“I’ve never been at a club where the lads do as much for the community as they do here; there’s no moaning and it is a great football club for doing community work.”
A highlight of Welsh’s community work this season has seen him strike up a friendship with little Jorgie-Rae Griffiths.
Jorgie, aged three suffers from Neuroblastoma, and her family have been relying on the goodwill of donations and support to fund her life saving treatment. Having met her when Jorgie was mascot for the Wolves game, Welsh has since met her again countless times and has even helped at raising the money the family need.
So who better to present the award to Welsh than Jorgie herself who was present for North End’s victory over Burton Albion on the final day of the 2017/18 season.
On his friendship with the youngster, Welsh said: “The real star of the show was Jorgie. She just warms your heart whenever she comes into the room and you can even here some of the reactions when she presented my award in the room.”
On the award itself, John Hudson, PFA – Director of Corporate Social Responsibility said: “The PFA believes that players who make that extra effort and contribution during the season should be recognised for their support and involvement in the local community.
"The award will hopefully raise awareness of the great contribution and importance many of our members attach to their roles off the pitch. We would like to offer our congratulations to this season’s recipient of the 2017/18 Community Champion Award”