A new book is celebrating the fans of Preston North End.Advertisement
Author Michael Barrett has launched PNE Forever, which delves into what it means to be a North Ender.
The book explores that very question with 116 fans from different backgrounds and generations, as they recount their stories of supporting the Lilywhites.
Memories such as Finney’s farewell, Nobby’s heroes, and Alexander’s goal feature in the book, along with tales of relegation, promotion, and – of course – plenty of play-offs.
Author Michael was born in Deepdale, just minutes from North End’s ground, and has always followed the team’s fortunes.
He works part-time at Royal Preston Hospital, and spends the rest of his time working on books.
Michael previously produced graphic novel Preston North End – The Rise of the Invincibles, which was released in October 2016.
Read more: Graphic novel charting Preston North End’s Invincibles launched
The final artwork was done by the iconic Roy of the Rovers artist David Sque, and Mark Lawrenson wrote the Foreword. It became a bestseller, reaching number two on Waterstone’s Christmas chart.
Here we speak to Michael about his new book, the fans that helped make it, and his hopes for North End this season…
How did you come up with the idea for the book?
When I was thinking of ways to promote Rise of the Invincibles, I hit on the idea of a poster, that I planned to call The Fabric of a Club. But that got me thinking, what is the fabric of a club? There was only one answer – its fans.
By chance I’d just been given a copy of a book called Humans of New York, which features photos of and interviews with the residents of New York City. And that was it – I thought why not do a similar book about the fans of PNE. And so Preston North End Forever was born.
What was your process for putting the book together?
I began work on it in August 2019 after drawing up a list of about 70 fans. That soon grew to 80, then 90, and so on until I had to stop as I’d never get it finished!
I met most fans and interviewed them face-to-face and then I’d take their photograph. But when Covid struck I had to start doing interviews by email. And of course I used email for the fans living abroad.
It was hard work logistically and mayhem trying to get it all done in time for Christmas. But it’s been worth it. It has been a pleasure and an honour talking to all these fans and listening to their stories. It’s a unique take on the history of our club. It’s our club, and these are our stories.
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How did you find the fans who feature in the book?
I’d met a few fans through doing talks on Rise of the Invincibles and I’d come across many names via the forums, so I had a good few fans in mind. Others were suggested to me by fellow fans as the book progressed, and some I just accosted outside Deepdale on match days!
The only criteria was to have a passion for the club. This is certainly not a book about who I consider to be North End’s greatest fans. I could never do that! It didn’t matter to me if you’d been on one game or one thousand. Instead it’s a simple snapshot of our fanbase. And in turn it’s a snapshot of our community. That’s what this club is really, a community.
What’s your favourite story from the book?
Ach! I like all the stories and it’s impossible to pick a favourite. But I do love the one about Bill Shankly phoning up a young fan who had sent him a letter asking about a particular match that Shanks had played in many years previous.
This young fan had long forgotten about the letter and was at home one evening lying on the floor in front of the telly when the phone rang. “Bill Shankly wants to speak to you,” shouted his Mum from the next room. Brilliant! Shanks loved Preston and its fans. From what I’ve heard about Bill Shankly it’s typical of the man.
There are countless stories about Sir Tom Finney too. One man even had a lift to work from him once!
How do you think PNE will do this season?
We’ve had such an inconsistent start it’s difficult to know where we’ll end up. It’s an incredibly tough league. But we have some great players and I really hope the bigger names stay on and help us mount a serious challenge.
Preston North End are a famous and important name in the history of football. It would be fantastic to see us back in the top league.
PNE Forever by Michael Barrett is available to buy from the Invincibles Books website, and is stocked in Waterstones, the PNE club shop, and the Harris shop.
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Will you be buying the book? Have you already read it? Let us know in the comments.