After ten successive seasons, a feat that made them the Championship’s longest serving club, Preston North End have been relegated to 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