BEHIND Mossley's renaissance - two promotions in three seasons - lies a remarkable story of a family's devotion to reviving the fortunes of the local football club.

Sam and Peggy Rigby and son Martin have spent the last nine years striving to bring the glory days back to Seel Park.

And such has been their commitment in terms of finance, time and energy that Sam and Peggy have managed only one week's holiday since they took over the club in 1997.

“When the season is over you would imagine we would have time for a break, but we immediately start work on the ground and preparing for the next season,” explained Peggy.

The 2006/07 season will kick off with Mossley in the premier division of the UniBond League - a far cry from when they took charge and a tangible reward for their hard graft.

While manager Jason Beckford and the players deserve enormous credit for their work, none of it would have been possible but for the off-the-field team.

It is no exaggeration to say Mossley was a club on its knees when local businessman Sam became chairman in 1997.

The club, which had reached the final of the FA Trophy in 1980 when it was regarded as one of the finest non-league teams in the land, had fallen on hard times.

Behind the scenes, the club was so heavily in debt that a dark cloud hung over its very existence.

The Rigby's had to pay off inherited debts of £65,000 before they were allowed to take over the club.

Local businessman Sam, the club chairman, explained: “The club was at a low ebb, both on and off the pitch. The team had been relegated to the North West Counties League and owed a lot of money.

“Our creditors included the tax man, brewery and Tameside Council who were owed rent and rates.

“It has been a challenge, not only for me but for the family as a whole, and it has taken a lot of hard work to pull the club round.”

Sam attributes the success to team work as son Martin is vice-chairman while Peggy is treasurer. They also have a trusted army of volunteers to assist them.

The Rigby's are not afraid to get their hands dirty either, with Martin - a qualified chef - and his partner Mary running the refreshment hut which is named ‘Martin's Bistro.'

And it is that team work which has also transformed their company Northern Electrical Connectors Limited from being a one-man band to the town's main employer with a workforce of almost 100.

Sam, who started his business in 1972, is chairman, Martin vice-chairman and Peggy the financial director.

Their company is the world's leading manufacturer of industrial battery connectors as well as doing precision engineering and plastic injection moulding. Their customers include BAE, Ferranti and British Rail.

And it is their success in the business world which has enabled them to invest in the football club.

Sam said: “Peggy and I have always been keen football fans and were season-ticket holders at Manchester City for many years.

“This football club is something we can do together - though it is an expensive hobby.

“If we kept a list of what we have spent over the last nine years it would be frightening.”

You only have to look at the clearing of the debts, massive ground improvements and achieving success on the field to appreciate it has probably run into several hundred thousand pounds because non-league football is rarely self-financing.

Sam said: “Peggy and I always used to go for a month-long cruise every winter, but we haven't missed a match since we took over the club.

“We have a holiday home in Tenerife but we've managed only one week there since 1997.”

But there are moments money cannot buy - such as the one when Mossley beat Bishop Auckland to virtually assure promotion.

“It was a tremendous feeling and at the final whistle I ran on to the pitch hugging the players,” explained Sam, who was celebrating his 72nd birthday that afternoon.

Upholding tradition

FEW families can have had a longer association with a football club than the Rigbys at Mossley.

Sam is chairman, wife Peggy controls the purse strings as treasurer while Martin is vice-chairman.

But it is 82 years since Peggy's father Frank Hollingworth signed as a player for the Lilywhites.

The teenage striker, who was recruited from local football, scored six goals in 13 first-team appearances between 1924/26.

Frank was not the only generation to play for Mossley as his grandson Martin Rigby, who was also a striker, played five times for the Seel Park side in 1983/84.

Martin was signed from Mossley Amateurs and later appeared for Ashton United before his playing career was ended by a serious back injury.

It was through her father that Peggy's love of football and Mossley was nurtured.

After Frank's playing days finished he served on the committee and founded the supporters' club at Seel Park.

And from being a small girl, Peggy was taken to games and went on the team coach to away matches.

The family have remained close to Mossley, even when they became season-ticket holders at Manchester City. Frank was such a diehard City fan he used to walk from Mossley to watch them play at Hyde Road in the days before they moved to Maine Road.

The family shared in Mossley's glory days, travelling to Wembley on a train which was specially chartered for the final of the FA Trophy in 1980.