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Former Stoke City kit man given Freedom of the Borough

Stoke City's former kit man Neil Baldwin has been honoured in his home town.

'Nello', as he is affectionately known was given the Freedom of the Borough in Newcastle last night.

Newcastle-born Neil has been widely known in North Staffordshire for most of his life but he rose to national fame in 2014 with the TV drama film about his life, called “Marvellous.”

The film starred Toby Jones as Nello, but also contained interviews and appearances by Neil himself. It was a double winner at the 2014 British Film and Television Awards (BAFTAs). 

Nello is already an honorary graduate of Keele University, where he meets and greets new students, and he still works at Stoke City football ground, often dressed in his clown costume. 

He has been given the Freedom of the Borough for his unique and dedicated service both to Keele University and to Newcastle, where he is a much-loved member of the community.

He was joined at the ceremony, at Keele University, by Sergeant Watchman V, the official mascot of the Staffordshire Regiment.

The North Staffordshire Regiment chose a Staffordshire bull terrier as their mascot in 1949, and he was named Sergeant Watchman. The three subsequent mascots, all Staffordshire Bull Terriers, were all called Sergeant Watchman. 

The latest Sergeant Watchman (V) was enlisted in the army as a puppy, in 2009, and was made official mascot in October that year. 

This month, alongside his handler, he attended the Field of Remembrance Service, held at Westminster Abbey, where he was treated as one of the VIPs. 

Sergeant Watchman V has travelled many thousands of miles in service of his regiment and he is a loyal and proud ambassador for Staffordshire. His exemplary behaviour representing the county, the Regiment and the Staffordshire terrier breed, has been recognised with the Freedom of the Borough. 

The Mayor of the Borough of Newcastle-under-Lyme, Sandra Hambleton said, “The Freedom of the Borough is the highest award that the council can give. It is a power that is very rarely used and is normally only awarded to local people who have, in the opinion of the Council, given outstanding services to the Borough.

“We are very proud to add their names to the list of very special recipients of the award.”

The Staffordshire Regiment was given the Freedom of the Borough in 1973.

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