ACCRINGTON Stanley’s first mascot, the grandson of a club stalwart, has been welcomed back as a VIP.

Les Pilkington, 97, enjoyed the pre-season friendly against Blackburn Rovers on Wednesday as the club’s special guest.

The grandchild of one-time vice president Sam Pilkington, Les ran out with the players when he was just five years old.

Never officially a part of the club, he is one of the club’s longest-serving supporters through their turbulent history.

The great-grandfather and war veteran, of Rishton, was welcomed by club executives who invited him to a reception before watching the game from the directors’ box.

The plan was put into place by Rishton councillor Harry Grayson and Hyndburn leader Miles Parkinson. The pair had written to Stanley chairman Peter Marsden with the idea.

Coun Grayson wrote: “I have had many discussions with him about his beloved Accrington Stanley, which he loved and supported from a young age.

“Sadly, he has not seen them play for quite a few years although he ‘keeps an eye’ on their progress.”

After the game, which ended 2-2, Les said: “It was wonderful and good to see them doing so well.

“There was some very nice football to see. It’s a bit different from when it was at Peel Park. Then, I would sit by my grandfather and he was in charge of getting the ball when it was kicked over the boundaries.

“They didn’t have to stop play though, they had two balls – a rich club! I used to love walking out with the team as a young lad with the ball. They’ve always been my team over the years. I am first to check the results.”

The former newspaper lino-type setter and Baxenden Cricket Club president has been invited back to the club again to meet Mr Marsden who has been away.

Mr Marsden said: “We were delighted to have Les come to the game. I would like to meet up with him personally to say hello."