David Cameron Walker

Archive for the ‘Preston North End’ Category

Hold on to your bowler hats, football’s back

Wednesday, August 7th, 2013

PNE

Perspective is a rare commodity in football at the moment.

Less than a week ago, I suggested that Preston’s opening two fixtures would immediately shape fans’ attitudes towards the rest of the season.

Mouth-watering fixtures yes, and a great way to launch into what could be an exciting campaign – but in reality only fixtures one and two of a long, hard season with plenty of time for fortunes to change should early results not go our way.

As it happens, PNE have made a strong start. A point at home to Wolves hints at a bid to re-establish Deepdale as the difficult away trip it used to be for visiting teams.

But what has captured the headlines this week is the cracking victory over Blackpool in the Capital One Cup.

While the dust is still settling on the aggro and aftermath, my point about perspective is this.

I’m all for passion in football, especially games against big rivals. Too many games against Blackpool have slipped by in a stupor of midday kick-off mediocrity.

And with the Lancashire pecking order turned on its head in the last few seasons, Tom Clarke’s late winner felt very, very good indeed.

Throw in the evening game atmosphere generated by an impressive attendance and you’ve got the potential for a memorable tie.

But a pitch invasion? This was the first round of the League Cup. It feels small time to celebrate with the same gusto that should be reserved for real achievement.

Of course it wasn’t members of ‘The Gentry’ on the pitch – it was more ill-fitting shorts and trainers than bowler hats. Yet the consensus after the game seemed to place this result in company it hardly deserved.

In my opinion, to justify a mass swarm over the barriers you need a moment mentionable in the same breath as the Paul Raynor-inspired comeback against Torquay to book a place at Wembley in 1996.

I saw one fan compare the moment to Mark Rankine’s late goal in the 2001 Birmingham City play-off semi-final second leg which sent us to penalties, Cardiff, and the chance to win promotion to the Premier League. This was not even close. Trust me, I was there.

Was this, as another tweet said, revenge for the ‘We are superior’ plane stunt over Deepdale when we were relegated in 2011?

Hardly. That was one of the lowest points of my time watching North End and Blackpool had just enjoyed an unforgettable season in the Premier League. It’ll take a few more of these victories to wrestle the bragging rights back down the M55.

Even the official club twitter account got a bit giddy, @pnefc tweeting: ‘Tom Clarke – welcome to North End folklore!’

Maybe we will replace Super Micky Conroy’s name in the famous old Town End song about putting the ball in the Blackpool net – I doubt many of those on the pitch on Monday night were around in 1999 and perhaps the aging chant needs modernising.

The same point about over-reaction applies to the pitch invasion.

A combination of factors have culminated in negative attention on the club: the presence of Sky Sports cameras; the absence of any other real ‘football news’ as the Premier League has not yet started; and the image of steward being trampled by a police horse.

Paddy Power’s sharp-eyed marketing wizards have been quick to jump on the bandwagon – offering Seasiders a free £10 bet because of PNE’s ‘shameful’ actions and rolling out a tongue-in-cheek ‘Lets hope Preston don’t get to Wembley’ campaign.

Though I can see the point Paul Ince is making about player safety, in reality there was no violence and just plenty of vigorous goading by about 200 North Enders  towards the thousands of travelling Lashers supporters.

The Paddy Power blog called the celebrations “shameful, but not sinister” – and even that is probably taking it a step too far.

Pitch invasions happen often and sometimes players and managers will come face to face with one or two morons. God forbid that they have to mix with the general public.

There have only been six arrests so far, five of which appear to be Blackpool fans for less serious offences of criminal damage and using threatening language.

Strong words from Lancashire Police have condemned “completely unacceptable” behaviour before, during and after the game.

Some Preston fans are now boycotting the online bookies over the perceived slight.

The season’s not yet a week old and we’re already drowning in a wave of hyperbole.

Football’s back.

Written by Sam Chadderton, We Are Going Up’s Preston North End Blogger

Sam tweets at @samchadderton

Big man little man partnership can fire PNE to promotion

Friday, August 2nd, 2013

KDaviesSean Gregan, Jon Macken, David Eyres, Ryan Kidd.

Names that bring back not-too-distant memories of Preston North End’s most successful period in recent history.

All were back in the famous Lilywhite shirt this week for a legends charity match at local non-league side Bamber Bridge’s Irongate ground.

Gregan’s shirt untucked swagger, Eyres’s jinks back inside, Macken’s goal from distance – some things never change.

These days at Deepdale, it is sometimes difficult to keep up with the comings and goings.

Once a model Championship club who promoted coaches from within, owned its own redeveloped stadium, and seemingly ran a tight ship based on stability: North End have been sucked into the same black hole of debt and indifference that has cut many proud clubs down to size in the last decade.

This year, however, there is a sense of optimism around the town which is pretty easy to explain.

The current PNE squad may not yet be back to the quality and recognisable names of Gregan and co, but the announcement of Kevin Davies as the big summer signing was a major coup for any club in League One.

It is a long time since a summer signing excited and energised the suffering Deepdale faithful. The plan of teaming Davies’ guile, knowhow, strength and above all, goals, with Iain Hume’s pace, tenacity and craft – if that is what Simon Grayson will do – is a potent one.

On the subject of the manager, there is further positivity. He has a track record of getting underachieving clubs with history, tradition, pedigree and big home crowds, like Leeds and Huddersfield, promoted. He also did the same at Blackpool.

Those associations with rival clubs shouldn’t count against him if, as hoped, he guides Preston to a top six finish this season.

There’ll be plenty of competition, though.

Like the Championship, most of the managers will be quoted as saying this league is the “hardest to get out of”. That’s underlined by the trend that no more than one team has bounced back to the second tier after relegation in the last nine out of 10 seasons.

Big city clubs like Wolves and Bristol City are hotly tipped to slot immediately back into the Championship. Free-scoring and free-conceding Peterborough will inevitably win more games 5-4 that they’ll lose 1-0.

Uwe Rosler’s Brentford should recover from play-off heartache to mount a challenge and how Sheffield United are still at this level with their intimidating home crowds, is a mystery perhaps explained by mismanagement and end of season yipps. Swindon – minus maverick boss Paolo Di Canio – still have the quality to do some damage.

For Preston, Grayson has said his squad is more about quality than quantity, adding only speedy winger Chris Hunphrey and strong centre half Tom Clarke to the signing of Davies.

Another aspect of this coming season that gets the blood flowing is a cracking set of opening fixtures.

After a sell-out 21,000 crowd for a home friendly with Liverpool during pre-season, North End have kick-off their campaign against promotion favourites Wolves on the first day of the season followed by a televised derby with The Lashers two days later in the Capital One League Cup.

It is a depressing sign of the fickle times that if Grayson wins these two fixtures his name will be bouncing around the stadium with chants of ‘We Are Going Up’ – yet lose these two and we’ll be certs for the drop, with the manager labelled a ‘Blackpool spy’.

Grayson oversaw a solid end to the previous season after the outspoken incendiary reign of ego-on-a-stick Graham Westley, guiding us clear of relegation and certain doom.

He’s also avoided the wholesale changes of his Teflon-coated predecessor, resulting in a settled, if not spectacular, pre-season work-out.

All bodes well at Preston North End for a season challenging at the top end of League One. Maybe next time we see the likes of Sean Gregan and his mates, it will be as guests of honour at the end of season promotion party.

Written by Sam Chadderton, We Are Going Up’s Preston North End Blogger

Sam tweets at @samchadderton

 

How Preston reached the North End of the table

Wednesday, October 5th, 2011

Preston North End have well and truly put their disastrous opening game of the season behind them after moving to 3rd in the League One table.

Preston played host to John Ward’s Colchester United on 6th August. Fans warmly welcomed veteran Graham Alexander as he came back to the club where he spent eight years.  For a short spell, he lost his marbles and ended up at Burnley but alas has learnt the error of his ways. How fitting that his last game for Preston in his first spell was against Colchester.  It wasn’t to be the dream re-start for Phil Brown’s men though as his side became the first in the Football League to concede – Anthony Wordsworth coolly slotted the ball into the bottom right corner past Andy Lonergan’s replacement Iain Turner in the 12th minute. That shabby performance resulted in a 4-2 loss.

Charlton currently lead the way at the top of the table with 27 points from 11 games. However, if Preston win their game in hand the Lilywhites will be breathing down Chris Powell’s neck. The Sheffield United game on Saturday has been postponed due to international duties, so our leapfrogging will have to wait. In case you were wondering, Iain Turner and Keammar Daley have been summoned to the Canadian and Jamaican squads respectively. Colin McLaughlin will be on Northern Ireland duty.

Last Tuesday night’s 4-3 thriller at Wycombe increased North End’s run up to seven straight league wins, eight games unbeaten.  This game epitomised their strength and self-belief as they clawed back from 3-2 down.  It’s our best start in the league in 52 years – quite a feat. Phil Brown hailed the players whilst simultaneously blasting the defence.

Unfortunately that fantastic run was brought to a halt on Saturday. Surprisingly it was bottom-of-the-league Leyton Orient who spoiled the fun. Graham Alexander missed his second penalty of the season, after the prolific spot kicker placed a spot-kick straight at the keeper in the 1-0 home win over Exeter in August. So far this season when Preston score first they have been able to salvage some points, seven out of eight times PNE have taken all three points. Therefore when Jamie Proctor gifted Paul Coutts with an easy tap-in from close range inside two minutes, I was confident we would see the game through. The O’s scored two before half time and even then I wasn’t concerned. The comeback never came and the problem that we have been masking all season was exposed – terrible defending.

It was about time PNE were punished for making very basic errors at the back. The whites have seemingly breezed to third place because our attacking style of play that has earned us 21 goals. Neil Mellor has netted seven and Iain Hume five, including some stunning strikes. Whilst the attackers have been scoring for fun, at the other end the defence have conceded fifteen. Admittedly Sean St Ledger flitted off to join Leicester in the transfer window and at 39 years-old, one could argue that Graham Alexander is past his sell by date.  However Paul Parry and the experienced Clarke Carlisle have made some terrible defensive blunders that belong in the playground. Seven goals were conceded in the last three games where the youthful Andreas Arestidou has worn the gloves whilst Iain Turner has been recovering from a damaged big toe. There are some tough fixtures ahead and Preston simply cannot rely on scoring four goals to make amends for lacklustre defending.

I cannot summarise our positive start to the campaign without saluting Iain Turner. Our goalkeeper delighted Deepdale with a cracking goal from his box! It was the result of a huge kick that bounced inbetween Neil Mellor and the County keeper, Stuart Nelson, to secure a 2-0 victory. Intentional or not, it’s a goal I’ll always remember.

A recent survey showed that Preston and Rochdale are the cheapest clubs to watch in League One. The 2-1 win over Tranmere was the highest attended match with 17,261 in Deepdale. There should be crowds like that at every home game because overall there’s an awful lot to cheer about.

Written by Hannah Lupton, We Are Going Up’s Preston North End Blogger

Hannah tweets at @Hannah_Lupton

Phil Brown’s Bouncebackability

Thursday, August 4th, 2011

After ten successive seasons, a feat that makes them the Championship’s longest serving club, Preston North End have been relegated to the Npower League One.

Since the heart-breaking 1-0 home defeat against promotion chasing Cardiff that relegated the Lilywhites on 25th April, Preston haven’t lost a game.  In terms of pre-season matches, North End have convincingly beat Fleetwood Town, Kendal Town and Morecambe, 4-0, 7-1 and 3-0 respectively. This form seems somewhat foreign to North Enders after last season. Three consecutive victories was our longest winning run all season (Scunthorpe 3-0, Coventry 2-1 and Swansea 2-1) and by then our fate was pretty much sealed. Hopefully this winning mentality can continue when the 2011/2012 season commences against Colchester at Deepdale on Saturday 6th August.

Manager Phil Brown has successfully persuaded midfielder Barry Nicholson to renew his contract for another two years. Positive news as the 32-year-old Scot, who has been blighted by two breaks to the same leg, should provide some more goals after teasing fans with three goals in as many games in the second half of last season.  Nicholson had already sworn his allegiance back in May about staying at Deepdale because he “owes it to the club”.

The Whites will welcome the loan signing of Clarke Carlisle from the Dingles, after losing proficient centre-back Sean St Ledger to Championship Leicester under the guidance of Sven Goran Eriksson.  Carlisle is no spring chicken at 31 but being five years St Ledger’s senior he will bring a stability and experience to the back four that was evidently missing during last season.  Carlisle was born in Leyland and has always wanted to play for PNE. I suppose it’s better late than never.

‘Andy Andy Andy Andy Lonergan’. That’s the chant the Leeds supporters will sing now that our no.1 has transferred to Elland Road. Simon Grayson was keen to sign our former keeper earlier in the season, if he had left then North End would have profited. However with rumours of fees worth £200,000 on a three year deal, it seems like Leeds have grabbed themselves a bargain to replace Kasper Schmeichel. A keeper of Lonergan’s quality deserves Championship football, that much cannot be denied. A Preston born lad who played 231 times for his club, and memorably netted a goal kick against Leicester – good luck to him.

Following Lonergan’s departure, Phil Brown has refuelled his desire to sign Iain Turner, former Everton goalkeeper. It looks very likely that Turner will don the jersey after impressing during his three month loan spell at the end of the season. If, or when, the free transfer is completed Turner should be set for Sunday’s friendly against Lancashire rivals Wigan. Lovely stuff!

On Monday 25th July thousands of North Enders marched through Bamber Bridge to commemorate Preston North End’s relegation to League One. It’s a tradition stretching back to 1948; if PNE are promoted or relegated fans will walk behind a coffin full of vegetables and bury it, as you do…  No you didn’t misread that – a coffin full of vegetables! The funeral procession was well attended by people of all ages who will surely be hoping that this time next year the walk will be one to celebrate.

Written by Hannah Lupton, We Are Going Up’s Preston North End Blogger

Hannah tweets at @Hannah_Lupton