A Preston North End fan has told of how racial abuse watching Leeds United in the 1970s set him on course to become a Lilywhites fan forever more.
Roop Singh is now a minor celebrity amongst the North End faithful and he reflects on meeting Noel Edmonds, beating the Banker and following PNE wherever they go.
Starting his career as an engineer in the 1970’s, going to football matches on Saturday afternoons was almost a part of the weekly routine. Working in Leeds he went to Elland Road to support the great Leeds United team of the 1970’s which won the Football League First Division and reached the final of the European Cup.
However, for Roop the experience of watching the likes of Peter Lorimer, Billy Bremner and Paul Reaney soon turned sour. He was a victim of racial abuse from a small section of Leeds United fans. This small minority would turn their attention onto him and shout racial abuse and prod Roop.
He said: “It was very uncomfortable for me because I didn’t know if I was going to be safe.
“You try to ignore it (racial abuse) but it lingers in your mind for a couple of days at least.”
He tried watching from the back of the stand so there wasn’t anyone behind him to abuse him but he didn’t like the experience because he felt isolated from the action on the pitch.
As a boy, after his mother told him that he was born in Preston, he used to keep look out for the PNE score and read articles about the team. After years of tracking the team Roop decided to go to Deepdale to watch a Preston North End match. He found the experience a complete contrast. He could go to matches without being racially abused. He could talk to other fans and be treated like a fellow human.
He said: “I found the people of Preston to be very civil and approachable.
“They (Preston North End fans) don’t look at your colour, your creed or your religion. They welcome everybody- you’re a Preston North End fan and you’re one of us.”
Roop Singh’s late father had wanted his son to go onto the gameshow Deal or No Deal and in 2013 he entered the gameshow.
A few PNE supporters recognised the 55 year old on television and soon through word of mouth the story that a Preston North End fan was on Deal or No Deal spread like wildfire. By the time it was his turn to play the game many Preston North End fans were watching the gameshow to see him.
In his 24th game in February 2014 he was selected to play in which he became the 7th person to win the £250,000 prize.
The money has helped him to go to even more Preston North End matches both home and away. Since then many people have congratulated him not only for winning the money but for regularly coming to Preston from Leeds to support PNE.
Roop said: “They wanted to have photographs with me. I was over the moon! I feel honoured to be a Preston North End fan and to be amongst these types of fans. Preston North End fans epitomise what a football fan should be.”
The PNE fan has attended the Gentry Day in previous years. He said “I usually wear an orange turban. Not tangerine. Let’s get it right. Tangerine is for Blackpool and I wear orange but because it was the gentry I wore a black turban.
“I didn’t wear a tie because you can’t see it behind my beard!”
Roop Singh is the proud owner of a Preston North End flag which he has kept for over 10 years. It truly is an international flag because the Deal Or No Deal fan takes the flag on holiday and it has been to many countries including America, Malta and Dubai.
Since 1984 the North End fan has been educating young people about the Sikh religion and in 1992 he left the Bradford Education Department to become Roop Singh the freelance storyteller.