Result: Preston North End 1-1 Newcastle United (Pre-Season Friendly)
Venue: Deepdale (Saturday 22nd July 2017, 3pm)
With the pre-season games rapidly drawing to a close, my penultimate Saturday game would see me head back up into Lancashire, following last week’s visit to Mill Hill and West Lancashire League side Mill Hill St. Peter’s. This weekend, however, would feature a far larger ground than that one and also a returning Premier League outfit.
After setting off earlier than usual, due to the fact I’d be having to go to the ground, sort a ticket and head back to the City pre-match, I arrived in Preston for just after 11.30am. After said walk up to Deepdale and back (with ticket and much cut-back programme (£1)) now in tow, I decided it was fair time I visited my first port of call. Question was, where was I to head?
After deciding to have a little explore off the main Fishergate stretch of shops/bars/pubs and the like, I found the old-looking Old Black Bull pub situated opposite the Wetherspoons that sat on the other end of the spectrum to the Bull, in that it was so shiny and modern it was almost obscene. The Old Black Bull was definitely more my scene and so I headed over and plumped for a Citra ale from a local brewery (the name escapes me) after kindly being afforded a taster first. For £3.15, it was hardly bank-breaking and was well worth it too, a really nice pint.
The pub began to be overcome by a bunch of rowdy Geordies, all of whom were in fine spirits, and I headed over to the aforementioned Fishergate to see what was on offer here. The first place that took my fancy was the large, imposing building that currently houses the appropriately named Fishers. After a bit of thinking of whether to go in, I reckoned it’d be a shame not to and was definitely rewarded. Inside is a vast expanse of a place with the high ceilings, large windows and old fireplace giving much in the way of character to it. The East Coast IPA was more on the costly side, at over £4, but it was ok, though I wasn’t sticking around for another.
As I continued on towards Deepdale, next up on the plan was the Bull & Royal that sits to the rear of what was (I’m not sure it is anymore) the old hotel of the same name. The whole building front is still as it was, though now plays host to a few shops at its front too, though if you head through the archway and into the back, you come across the bar area. Here, I settled in with a pint of Amstel and watched a bit of both of the money-spinning PL pre-season games from the Far-East that I just can’t stand. That’s the politest way I can show my disdain for these tournaments, especially when it appears that most supposed “elite” clubs can’t even put on one cut-price “First Team” game back at home now. Sad times.
With time beginning to go against me and my traverse of Fishergate, it was time to head off to the end of the street and the Blue Bell Inn, which looks completely out-of-place in its setting. However, on my way down, I was distracted by the pub opposite, namely the Bear’s Paw. No particular reason why, though I now reckon something somewhere was telling me about them selling bottles for under £2 and two for £3. Value. A single Sol would do for me and it was quickly downed before the Blue Bell was up.
A Taddy Lager was my tipple of choice to finish up in Preston pre-match and what a place to have it. I really, really liked the Blue Bell and would definitely recommend it to anyone visiting. The beer is cheap too (well, it is Sam Smith’s after all) and this was a fine way to close proceedings. Deepdale was up next. It was to be my second visit to North End’s home, after I last called a couple of years back now for a FA Cup replay against Nottingham Forest, which the visitors won 2-0 in the midweek clash.
Arriving at Deepdale with around 10 minutes to kick-off, I got the usual few outside pictures before heading into the terraces. After buying a Steak and Kidney pie pre-match for around £3, I then couldn’t find my ticket which I’d put in my bag and I’m sure the steward who came over to ask if all was ok must have been convinced I was drunk and this point. However, my memory was correct and I did find my allocated seat without the use of the ticket (which, it turned out, had somehow fell within the programme).
I got to my seat just after the game had got underway and the visiting fans to my left were in good voice for a friendly contest. Before we get into it all in truth, here’s a bit about Deepdale. It’s your usual all-seater stadium, with the floodlights and clock being the only two real distinguishing factors of the ground. Despite this, Deepdale is a nice ground to watch a game in (imo).
The ground dates from 1878 (though isn’t at all reflective of its age) and is one of many grounds to claim to be the “oldest continually used ground in the world”. Built on a farm for North End sports club, the ground was originally used for cricket and rugby with the ground being built up through the 1920’s for the football crowds. The ground was the last (to date) to feature a “plastic pitch” in English league football and Deepdale’s renovation was somewhat based upon Genoa’s Luigi Ferraris ground, which is shown mostly around the floodlights and roofs. The “Invincibles Pavilion” serves as the Main Stand, featuring all the boxes and a restaurant within. Opposite stands the Sir Tom Finney Stand, which is the largest, hosting just under 8,000 at capacity and is also the oldest stand in the rebuilt venue. The two ends are populated by the “Alan Kelly” Town End and Bill Shankly Kop respectively, the latter housing the Toon Army today.
Now here’s everyone’s favourite section, a history bit. Calm down all. For this edition it’s, unsurprisingly, the story of Preston North End….
Preston North End FC was founded in 1880, though the club itself dates back from 1863 from its inception as a cricket club. 1875 saw them move to their current site at Deepdale, played as a rugby union side from 1877 before taking on association football rules in 1878 and the rules were fully adopted in 1880 to truly form PNE FC. They were very successful in the early years of professional football, North End famously defeating Hyde 26-0 in the FA Cup, which still stands as an English “first-class” winning margin record.
1889 saw the club become the first “Double” winners, the “Invincibles” becoming the only side to go a whole season unbeaten and didn’t even concede a goal in their FA Cup success. They retained their League championship the following season but are yet to win it again, even having to retain their League status in a “Test Match” against Notts County, which ended in a 4-0 win. They have ended as runners-up on six occasions, but not since 1958, and Preston’s last major honour came way back in 1938, a second FA Cup triumph.
After relegation from the top-flight in 1901, Preston were competing in the Second Division which they won in 1904, before returning again in 1912. Their stay was only a single season, though, as they again lifted the trophy to achieve the rise up the league again. 1914 saw their pre-war yo-yo-ing continue as they returned to the Second Division once more, only for the club to be promoted again in 1915. A decade later, Preston would return to the second tier and would remain there for the next nine years, until promotion back to the top step in 1934.
Throughout the majority of (latterly Sir) Tom Finney’s career, spanning the late 40’s to 1960 – in which he became the club’s top goalscorer with 187 goals – Preston remained in the top-flight (bar 1949-51, when they were in Division 2 before taking the title once more) but Finney’s retirement did see North End relegated in 1961. They have never returned to the English top-flight though did reach the 1964 FA Cup Final, where they lost out to West Ham.
Preston were relegated to the Third Division in 1970, but returned to Division 2 as champions after a solitary season. After a relegation in 1974 and later promotion in 1978, a steady decline would follow and Preston found themselves in the Fourth Division by 1985 (after an earlier drop to Division 2 in 1981), finishing second-bottom the following year and only avoiding Conference football due to the existence of re-election in those days. However, they soon had an upturn in fortunes, with promotion to the Third Division being achieved in 1987 following that low-ebb and they would remain there through to 1992 during which the restructuring saw it become Division 2.
However, the next season would see them relegated to the “new” Division 3 and play-off disappointment followed at the end of the following campaign. 1995 had Preston promoted to Division 2 as champions of the Third Division, before David Moyes arrived at the club to see Preston to the play-offs in 1999 and promotion as Division 2 winners the next season.
2001 saw the club narrowly miss out on promotion to the Premiership for the first time, but the Lilywhites were defeated in the play-off final by Bolton Wanderers and Moyes would leave soon afterwards. Despite his departure, two further play-off appearances followed (’05 & ’06) with David Nugent becoming the first Preston player to earn an England cap since Sir Tom and netting an absolute screamer on his sole appearance(!).
After another play-off disappointment in 2009, the club was relegated to the League 1 in 2011 but reached the play-offs in 2015 which ended in promotion to the Championship via an emphatic 4-0 victory over Swindon Town in the final, ending an unwanted record (at the time) of nine consecutive unsuccessful play-off campaigns over all divisions, after missing out again in the 2014 season. They have remained in the Championship since finishing up in a respectable 11th place last season.
With the game already underway, it didn’t take at all long for the deadlock to be broken and it was the visitors who had the honour of doing so. I was fairly lucky to see it though as, between digging into my pie, one glance up saw the ball end up at the back-post where Aleksandar Mitrovic was lurking to fire in with ease, with North End ‘keeper Chris Maxwell still recovering from the original stop. This seems to be a running theme now out of the last two games I’ve seen the gloveman in. Sorry Chris.
“Mitro” almost doubled his and Newcastle’s tally mid-way through the half, only for Preston’s ex-Manchester United man Marnick Vermijl to clear off the line and it was to prove an important clearance as this served to allow his side to grab a leveller just before the break, Dan Johnson’s fine ball into the box was converted – on the volley – by Tom Barkhuizen who had arrived at the back-post to fire across Magpies’ first-half custodian, Rob Elliot.
After almost taking the lead on the stroke of half-time through another back-post chance that was smashed into the side-netting, the hosts headed in at the break all square. To be honest, that was pretty much that in terms of action for the game, as the second half became the usual glut of substitutions and therefore, regular stoppages interrupting any sort of flow the game could get into.
For what action there was, though, the better of it seemed to edge to the side of the hosts. Jordan Hugill forced a decent stop out of sub ‘keeper Karl Darlow (who was then himself subbed off after a very brief appearance), whilst Hugill himself was withdrawn soon after his chance, being serenaded with chants of his name a he headed off down the tunnel.
Preston then introduced new signing (another ex-MUFC youngster) Josh Harrop, who I always rated when seeing him at varying age levels whilst at the Red Devils. Newcastle responded by introducing their own new signing, the Spanish former Liverpool full-back Javier Manquillo, who’d only just joined the club the previous day. However, neither could really help to create a further opportunity for their respective sides and so the contest came to its conclusion with honours even.
The 25-minute walk back to Fishergate was undertaken before a quick stop-off in the other (and better for me) Wetherspoons, the Twelve Tellers, was called for. The staple Punk IPA was had but my plans for one final stop were called off as I just didn’t feel like it by that point and so I gave best and decided to save the last few for another day and another trip. Instead it was back to the Station and to the train back where, of course, it was standing room only. Nice.
The return journey was completed with no issues outside of that, however, and so completes the trip North. Overall it was a pretty good day, cheaper than it would have been (of course, just £10 in instead of £30) and the City of Preston was hardly over-priced itself. The game wasn’t the best, though this was to be expected, and at least it wasn’t a nil-nil! So, it’s on to the last weekend of pre-season before the season gets underway with the FA Cup at the start of August. Here we go again….!
Programme: 3 (cut-back massively on usual issue)
Value For Money: 6