AFTER more than four decades of covering Chester City Football Club, Chester Chronicle sports editor Ian Bedford is retiring today.
To celebrate this milestone, Ian was invited to the Deva Stadium to receive a framed, signed shirt and commemorative statue from club secretary Tony Allan.
It has been a vintage innings with Ian reporting on the Chester club for 41 of his 44 years with the now Trinity Mirror-owned newspaper.
After covering matches within three years of joining the paper, Ian took over from equally long-standing sports editor Austin Bellis in 1969.
Ian attended Helsby Grammar School before joining The Chester Chronicle as a cub reporter in 1961 when it was privately owned and before it became part of the Thomson Regional Newspaper empire.
Ian looks back on a satisfying 36 years as head of The Chronicle's sports desk.
The highlights he has witnessed include watching his team reach the semi-final of the League Cup in 1974-5 after beating League champions Leeds United and Newcastle United on the way.
He also relished seeing Chester Jets basketball team win the grand slam in 2002 and especially enjoyed covering the Commonwealth Games in 2002 in Manchester where he saw Bunbury's Beth Tweddle, then a Queen's School pupil, collect a gold gymnastics medal.
Trinity Mirror Cheshire Editor in Chief Eric Langton said: 'Ian has been a tremendous asset to The Chronicle with unrivalled knowledge of the local sporting scene and Chester FC in particular.
'It's amazing whenever I talk to journalists around the country and they know I am from Chester how many ask after Ian.
'He is a well-liked member of the senior editorial team who has spent his whole working life with the newspaper.
'His knowledge and skills will be sorely missed.'
Ian has been married to Sheila for 35 years and they have a daughter Clair who followed in her father's footsteps at The Chronicle before moving on to the BBC and then becoming communications manager of Hope House Children's Hospice in Oswestry.
Son Nic is a community policeman with North Wales Police.
The couple plan to celebrate Ian's retirement with a long-promised visit to Canada in September and after that Ian hopes to devote more time to his interests of walking, photography, travel - and spending more time with his two grandchildren Andrew and Elinor.
Ian said: 'As a proud Cestrian born within the City Walls it has been a privilege to do this job for so long.
'I hope our coverage of sport during this time has inspired and encouraged local sportsmen and women and long may it do so for years to come.'