Following on from English football’s nadir of the so called golden generation at the 2010 FIFA World Cup, normal service resumes this Saturday when npower Championship League football returns to Preston North End with the visit of Doncaster Rovers.
Despite the positive promise of the new season, it is worth saying that it has been a turbulent time recently at Deepdale. The clubs financial matters made the headlines back in May when the club was reported with a winding up petition from the HM Revenue and Customs. Despite that grave news however, this has not stopped manager, Darren Ferguson from making a dip into the transfer market for new blood.
The most exciting transfer is arguably the return of Matthew James on loan from Manchester United who impressed greatly in his first loan spell, last season. Ferguson has also raided his dad’s team once more with the signing of Scottish full back, David Gray who looks likely to be a direct replacement for the departed Michael Hart. In addition, Paul Hayes has signed for a free from Scunthorpe United who his 13 goals for last season, saw the striker save the Yorkshire club from relegation.
Add this with the further signings of Wales international, Craig Morgan from Peterborough for £400,000 and Leicester’s Wayne Brown on a free transfer and the fans can surely see that the squad on paper looks an improvement from last seasons outfit. The club have also been impressive in rejecting bids for their highly rated goalkeeper, Andy Lonergan from Premiership outfit, West Bromwich Albion. This followed interest coming in from now Premiership side neighbours, Blackpool and Burnley.
With the squad overhaul, the site is set on improvement to be done to help the club reach the top 6. Supporters will crave a return to the Play off finals of 2001 and 2005 where Preston were just one game away from reaching the promised land of the Premiership. Ultimately Preston suffered defeat in both finals and further play off agony then followed in the subsequent seasons. However the club didn’t even get that high last season with failure to reach the play off spots proving a huge disappointment for the fans.
In terms of pre-season, it has largely been a mixed performance though it is always early days to judge. Despite the defeats against Everton and Oldham, the team have beaten all the local Lancashire opposition they have faced. A 6-1 win at non-league, Bamber Bridge yielded six different goalscorers with Sean St Ledger, Keith Tracey, Matthew James, Billy Jones, Paul Hayes and Neil Dougan all on the scoring sheet. This was followed by a 3-1 win at Chorley with two goals from youngster, Danny Mayor against a side who boasted high calibre former Blackburn Rovers stars, striker Matt Jansen and player manager, Gary Flitcroft.
The most impressive result of pre-season saw a 3-0 win against another Lancashire rival, Blackburn Rovers. Despite its ‘friendly’ tag, there is no doubt that the victory against nearby Lancashire opposition was a boost of morale for the incoming season. Goals from new signing, Paul Hayes (2) and Chris Brown gave Preston a comfortable win.
As well as the matches, work off the field has proved just as crucial. The club held a popular open day at Deepdale Stadium on the 29th July. Fans got the chance to watch Darren Ferguson’s team take part in a full training session. The opportunity to meet many of the players for the younger fans was also an enjoyable experience.
Now all eyes turn to the big match against Doncaster at home this Saturday where only a good start to the campaign will suffice.
Blog Preston wishes the team luck for the forthcoming season and hope they can do the city of Preston proud.
Preston North End August Fixtures
Saturday 7th August: League Vs Doncaster Rovers (H)
Tuesday 10th August: League Cup Vs Stockport County (A)
Saturday 14th August: League Vs Swansea City (A)
Saturday 21st August: League Vs Portsmouth (H)
Saturday 28th August: League Vs Sheffield United (A)
Image credit to Bonnett
What do you think North End’s chances are this season? Will they mount a play-off challenge or will it be a relegation dog fight? Let us know in the comments below