A Historic Milestone: Game 5,000


As a North End fan, like many, if not the majority of you reading this, I’m incredibly proud to say that I support this fine football club, steeped in footballing history and tradition.

We are a founding member of the football league, we hold the record for the biggest win in the FA Cup with our 26-0 victory over Hyde United in 1887, the late, great Sir Tom Finney was the first player to be named Player of the Year twice in 1954 and 1957, Deepdale is football’s oldest ground in terms of continuous use by a major club and of course, we are the original invincibles and won the inaugural FA Cup without conceding a goal. As North End fans, there are plenty of things to be proud of when it comes to our club.

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With our 5,000th league game in mind, I took to writing this piece in the hope of bringing back fond memories of our club’s history. I have asked former players and managers for their memories of their time at the club and what it meant to them to represent Preston North End. Without further ado, let’s reminisce.

Jon Macken

First up, we have a former striker, Jon Macken. In his years at the club, he made over 180 appearances and scored over 60 goals before signing for Manchester City for what was, at the time, a club record fee of £5m.

Jon’s episode of From the Finney Meets… will be out as part of season 2 soon. Here’s what Jon had to say about his time at PNE.

“To play for Preston North End means everything to me. They gave me my career in football.

“I will always be truly grateful for the opportunity I was given to play for such a wonderful football club.”

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Phil Brown

Phil was only in charge at North End for 51 games but having spoken to him numerous times, I’ve no doubt that had certain things worked out differently, he’d have been in charge for a lot longer. Here’s what he had to say about his time at the club.

“It was a great honour to manage PNE and it’s fantastic for the club to reach the 5000 game milestone which signifies the extent of their great history and heritage.

“For me when you speak of Preston North End you think of what great things football is all about; pride, passion and unbelievable support through highs and lows but still standing!”

Mick Rathbone

Mick or Basil as he’s affectionately known, first came to North End as a full-back and went on to play just under 100 games at the club. After arriving in 1987 and after a short stint away with Halifax Town, he returned and eventually left again in 2002 but this time, as a physio.

“Congratulations on 5000! A club steeped in history! Proud Preston but none more proud than me to pull on those colours as a player AND then as physio!”

Chris Brown

The self-proclaimed “defensive forward” enjoyed his best spell of football in his first 6 months in PR1 and also said when we recorded his episode for From the Finney Meets… that it was the fittest he’d ever been in his career. Here’s what he had to say about his time with North End.

“I loved the time I spent at PNE. I made friends for life both on and off the field while I was with the club.

“It’s a proper family club, everyone was in it together from the staff at Deepdale, even down to the kit men. No doubt about it though, my favourite game was B1ack3ool away, obviously!”

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Kelham O’Hanlon

Despite only playing for the club for one season, Kelham went on to have quite a large part to play in our recent history as assistant manager to David Moyes and also going on to be caretaker of the club for a short period in 2002 after Moyesie’s departure to Everton.

“Preston North End is a special football club with special people around it and I knew that from the moment that I walked in through the door.

“I am privileged to say that I played for, coached & managed Sir Tom’s Preston (as my dad never got tired of telling me). For me to have played a tiny part in the club’s illustrious history within those 5,000 games is an honour that I shall take with me for the rest of my life.”

Danny Mayor

Danny is a local lad and came through the academy of the club that he supported as a boy and went on play over 60 times and score for. For Danny, making his debut meant everything. Here’s his take on his time at North End.

“My earliest memory of football was sitting with my dad in the Sir Tom Finney Stand at Deepdale watching the likes of Sean Gregan and Paul McKenna.

“It’s the club that I grew up supporting and it’s the club I will be taking my boy to watch, so to be able to say that I played for my club will always go down as one of my biggest and proudest achievements in the game.”

Sean Gregan

Where to start with Sean? A warrior, a hero, a midfield general. These are just a few of the words that have been used to describe his time in a North End shirt. Here’s how he looks back on his time with the club.

“Spending 6 years and making over 200 appearances for the great club was probably my best time in football. Obviously I had highs at other clubs but I most enjoyed pulling on the famous white shirt.

“The fans were always great to me and there was a real mutual respect there. I think they could see I would run through a brick wall and fight for every ball and giving 100% for their club.

“I made some life long friends at North End and had some of my best times on and off the pitch with that group of players, I feel it was real honour and privilege to play and follow some of the legends who had also pulled on that famous shirt.

“I feel I played a part in helping to restart the club and getting it back up through the leagues and giving the fans something to cheer about and ultimately, giving them a club to be proud of again. All the best for game 5,000, Greegs.”

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Neil Mellor

I’ve seen Mells described as a ‘proper’ striker but having spoken to him numerous times, I can also confirm he’s a ‘proper’ gentleman, too. Here’s what playing for North End meant to him.

“I loved my time playing for North End. There are plenty of memorable games and moments that I enjoyed. Proud to have been part of the last North End squad to have made it to the Championship play-offs. Our biggest strength was the team unity we had in the dressing room to go and deliver on the pitch.

“I will never forget being part of wins over Burnley and Blackpool away as well as scoring in both of those games. I will always be grateful to the fans for supporting me and also the Preston number 33 song.

“Preston North End is a club that will always mean a lot to me and it will always have a place in my heart.”

Scott Laird

Lairdy is an absolutely top, top bloke. When I spoke with him for his episode of From the Finney Meets… (out in season 2), it was immediately clear to see how much his time at Deepdale meant to him. Here are some of his memories from his time in the north-west.

“When I was around 12/13 years old I was on a football tour in Scotland with Plymouth Argyle and on our way back down south we stopped off at Deepdale to have a tour around the ground and in the National Football Museum. I remember looking out on to the pitch and reading about the history of the club and of course, all about Sir Tom, and thinking to myself that it would be a dream to play here.

“Then a decade or so later, initially, I was privileged enough to play there as an opposition player and then a while later I remembered myself as a little boy, looking out at the Deepdale pitch as I pulled on the famous white jersey and went on to play over 100 games for Preston North End Football Club.

“I made some amazing memories with my family there and met some amazing people who are still close friends to this day.”

Richard Cresswell

Cressy was, as I made quite obvious in my piece about him that you can read here, my first footballing and Preston North End hero. To get to speak to him for season 2 of From the Finney Meets… about his time at North End was incredible for me.

Another ‘proper’ striker if you will, like Jon Macken before him and Neil Mellor after him. We had some highs and some lows while Cressy was playing in Lilywhite and I’ll never forget watching the man with the blonde tips in his hair, number 25 on his back and his crisp white boots firing in goals for North End. Here’s what he had to say about his time in Lancashire.

“Amazing club with a passionate and loyal fan base. Probably the best football I played in my career during my time at PNE.

“It wasn’t just about the football for me, though. The friends my family and I made and the memories we have from Preston will live with us forever, they’ll never leave us.

“Great people, great place and of course a great football club. Thanks, Cressy.”

Simon Grayson

Last but by no means least is the man who has played a massive part in our most recent history and will forever, along with that group of players from our promotion season at Wembley, be written into the proud history of Preston North End Football Club.

For me, Simon has been superb to work with and all the players I’ve spoken to that played under him couldn’t speak highly enough of him, his staff and what they brought to help bring our famous, proud football club back to where it belongs.

“I will always look back on my time at Preston with very fond memories and with an incredible amount of pride at what I achieved in my time at the club. From the first few days of being there, I felt a connection with the fans and I also felt very comfortable working with Mr Hemmings and Peter Ridsdale.

“As a manager, when you arrive at a new club, your aim should always be to leave it in a better state both on and off the pitch than when you arrived. During my time at Deepdale I feel I did this. You look at some of the players we recruited who are still now playing a big part at the club in helping to move it forward and ultimately trying to get into the Premier League.

“Without a doubt, the highlight of my time at PNE was the win at Wembley. This was for the supporters who had suffered so many disappointments over the years in the play-offs, so to see so many fans celebrating as they did makes you realise how much it meant to them.

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“I loved my time at PNE, working with my staff, the players, and others behind the scenes and to leave was the hardest decision I have ever had to make. I will always be very proud to have managed and helped achieve something at such a proud and historic club.

“Hopefully even better times are around the corner for the club and the fans. Thank you for your support during my time in charge at Preston, what we achieved together, players, staff and fans, was incredible.”