Millennium Magic: 20 Years On


Twenty years have passed since Preston North End last lifted a title. The 1999/2000 Second Division title-winning season in which Preston built on the disappointment of the previous campaign saw the Lilywhites buying wisely and mounting a promotion push which saw them win the league from near neighbours Burnley by seven points.

In the previous year, North End had suffered play-off heartbreak, not for the first time, when they lost in the semi-final to Gillingham.

On the back of that disappointment, manager David Moyes made a number of shrewd attacking signings including Steve Basham and Brett Angell. There was also good cup success with narrow defeats to Arsenal in the League Cup and to Everton in the fifth round of the FA Cup. Tepi Moilanen broke Alan Kelly’s long-standing record of clean sheets in a season and Jon Macken ended up as top scorer with 25 goals in all competitions.

To cap an enjoyable season off for the North End faithful, Blackpool were relegated to Division Three.

The title was presented at a sell-out Deepdale on Saturday 29th of May, 2000 after a 3-2 victory over Millwall in the penultimate game of the season.

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Largely the same squad would then march on to the brink of the Premier League in the following season, falling at the final hurdle at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff in the Championship play-off final to Bolton Wanderers managed of course, by former North End player, Sam Allardyce.

Following that, there was a gradual breakup of the league winning side and PNE have only come as close to the top tier on one occasion since. With two decades having passed since North End last lifted a league title, we take a look at what happened to some of the key members of that squad in their careers after leaving Preston.

Tepi Moilanen

Teuvo Johannes Moilanen, or as most you will know him, Tepi Moilanen, joined David Moyes’ side from FF Jaro in Finland in 1995 for £120,000. Moilanen made over 180 appearances for the club including a couple of short loan spells at Scarborough in 1996 and Darlington in 1997 respectively.

Tepi was named player of the year in 1998 and seemingly went on to win the battle with David Lucas by securing himself the number one position for the aforementioned title-winning season. He made a significant contribution towards the club’s championship success that season.

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With his intimidating 6′ 6″ frame and blonde hair, he was capable of pulling off extraordinary reaction saves. Tepi made 40 appearances and achieved 24 clean sheets that season.

After winning the title, Tepi continued to play for the club for a further three years before leaving for Hearts where he made a handful of appearances. After his spell in Scotland, he returned to Finland and retired in 2006. He now works in recruitment in Tampere, Finland.

David Lucas

Born in Preston, Lucas spent a ten year period from 1994 with the club and made 123 appearances. He was also capped by England at both under-18 and under-20 levels during his time with North End.

Often on the North End bench due to the form of fellow goalkeeper Moilanen, Lucas made six appearances during the 1999/2000 season and also spent time out on loan at Darlington, Scunthorpe United and Sheffield Wednesday before eventually signing permanently for the Owls in 2004.

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He also had spells at Barnsley, Leeds United, Swindon Town, Rochdale and Birmingham City before he joined Fleetwood Town to make the final two appearances of his 313 game career in 2015.

Upon retirement, Lucas joined the Cod Army’s coaching staff alongside former teammate Graham Alexander and ex-North Ender Chris Lucketti. Lucas remains the first-team goalkeeping coach at Fleetwood to this day.

Graham Alexander

Quite simply one of the most significant players at Preston in the past 40 years or so, it not longer. Signing for a bargain price of £50,000 from Luton Town in 1999, Graham Alexander was in a battle with Gary Parkinson for the right-back position but went on to make 58 appearances in the league and cup in the season.

A consistently solid defender who was also capable of joining the attack on the right side with dangerous crosses and he was also deadly from the penalty spot. Interesting fact, according to an article on TalkSport, he’s the 5th highest scoring defender of all time with 130 goals.

That puts him above the likes of Franz Beckenbauer, Sergio Ramos and Roberto Carlos.

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Alexander made 352 appearances in total for North End in an eight-year period, scoring 52 goals. When Preston declined to offer Alexander a two-year contract, a story you can hear the great man tell himself in our interview for From the Finney Meets… (part 1 and part 2), he left and joined Burnley.

His spell in East Lancashire lasted for four seasons until 2011 and also included a promotion to the Premier League. Alexander also received 40 caps for Scotland before returning to Graham Westley’s Preston for the 2011/2012 season when he made a further 18 appearances and scored a further two goals.

The final goal was that infamous free kick in the final minutes of the last game of the season at home against Charlton Athletic, another story you can hear him talk about in our podcast.

Grezza went on to become the manager of Fleetwood Town from 2012 until 2015. A spell in charge of Scunthorpe United followed until 2018 and Alexander is currently the manager of Salford City. He has guided them into the Football League for the first time in their history after beating AFC Fylde 3-0 in the National League play-off final in 2019.

Michael Jackson

A centre back who played for both Crewe Alexandra and Bury before joining North End in 1997, Jackson made 251 appearances for the Lilywhites before leaving for Tranmere Rovers after a loan spell.

Jackson formed a formidable partnership with fellow central defender Colin Murdock which helped North End to the record of conceding the fewest goals in the division in the 99/00 season. ‘Jacko’ also scored some vital goals that season, including the winner in the derby game away at Wigan Athletic in April 2000, a game that saw thousands of North End fans filling up one of the side stands to cheer their side on and he also grabbed the second goal in the 3-2 win over Millwall in the penultimate game of the season.

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After playing for Blackpool and Shrewsbury Town between 2006 and 2010, Jackson became caretaker manager of the Shrews for one game in 2010 and then permanent manager in 2014 for 19 games. He is now assistant manager to Mickey Mellon at Tranmere Rovers.

Colin Murdock

Northern Irishman Murdock was one of the ‘Old Trafford three’ along with Jonathan Macken and Michael Appleton who joined United from the Red Devils in 1997.

A central defender who played 34 times for North End in 1999/2000, Murdock also received 34 caps for Northern Ireland and scored one goal for his country against Austria in 2004.

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After leaving Preston in 2003 with 180 appearances under his belt, Murdock moved to Hibernian before playing for Crewe Alexandra, Rotherham United, Shrewsbury Town and Accrington Stanley. He retired in 2009 and qualified as a solicitor.

He now works in the football agency sector (clients include Scott McTominay and Jonny Evans) and he also sits on the FA’s football judicial panel chairing disciplinary hearings.

Rob Edwards

Born in Kendal, Rob Edwards started his career at Carlisle United before moving to the other end of the country when he joined Bristol City.

He moved to North End on a free transfer at the start of the 1999/2000 season and played the majority of the games that season as the side’s left-back. In total, Edwards made 169 appearances for Preston and scored four goals before being released on a free in 2004. He signed for Simon Grayson’s Blackpool in the same year and made a further 58 appearances for the Seasiders before signing for Conference side Exeter City in 2006.

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He scored the winning goal in the Grecians 2008 Conference play-off final victory over Cambridge United, securing their return to the professional game. Edwards had been appointed as a player/coach at Exeter at the end of 2007 and he retired in 2011 to become a full-time member of the backroom team.

In May 2014, Edwards was appointed manager of Tranmere Rovers and lasted in the role for around six months. Since August 2019, Edwards has been the manager of the Welsh under-19 national side. He made four appearances for the Welsh national side as a player himself between 1997 and 1998.

Sean Gregan

If the phrase ‘captain, leader, legend’ was suitable for any former North End player, that player would be Sean Gregan. A rock-solid defensive midfielder, the Ben Pearson before his time, Gregan made 33 appearances over the course of the 1999/2000 and remains the last captain to lift a league title for the club.

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He started his career with Darlington, having signed professional terms with them in 1991, before moving to Preston in 1996 for a fee of £350,000. Gregan made a total of 212 appearances for the Lilywhites and scored 12 goals. He continued to captain North End in their first season back in the second tier and made 41 appearances as they made their way to the Championship play-off final at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff.

Gregan played one further season at Deepdale before leaving for Premier League bound West Bromwich Albion at the start of the 2002/2003 season. He then moved to Leeds United in the 2004/2005 season before a move to Oldham Athletic in 2006.

He spent four full seasons at Boundary Park before leaving for Fleetwood Town in the Conference in 2010. Two appearances were also made for Kendal Town in the Northern Premier League in 2011 before ‘Greegs’ went on to become player/coach at Darlington in 2012 and was appointed joint manager of the club in 2017. However, he left after just four days in the role.

He spent a short time as assistant manager at York City in 2018 and also writes a regular column on the fortunes of North End for the Lancashire Post newspaper.

Lee Cartwright

Another player who can, for me, be classed as a North End legend. Rawtenstall born Cartwright was signed by then Preston manager John McGrath in 1989, making his debut for the first team in 1991.

A speedy right-winger, Cartwright made a total of 403 appearances for North End and scored 26 goals. Lee had a number of high and low moments in his 13 years at the club: relegation in 1992/1993, play-off defeats in 93/94 and 00/01 and title-winning seasons in 1995/1996 and the season we’re looking at here, the 1999/2000 season.

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After leaving Preston in 2004, Cartwright signed for Stockport County before moving to Rochdale and then Scarborough where he was the final ever player of the season in 2006/2007 before they were liquidated.

He then made 22 appearances for Hyde United in Conference North in the 2007/2008 season. Since retirement, Cartwright has worked as a care worker for young people in East Lancashire.

Mark Rankine

Partnering Sean Gregan, Rankine formed an intimidating central midfield partnership in his time at North End.

Having signed for his home town club Doncaster Rovers in 1987, Rankine played for both Rovers and Wolverhampton Wanderers before a £100,000 transfer to Deepdale in 1996. He made 44 appearances during the 1999/2000 season and was also on the score sheet in the following season with ‘that goal’ in the Championship play-off semi-final against Birmingham City.

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When Craig Brown took over at Deepdale, Rankine found himself out of favour and went out on loan to Sheffield United in 2003. It was here that he found himself in his second unsuccessful Championship play-off campaign in three seasons.

Rankine subsequently signed for the Blades in the summer of 2003 on a free transfer and made only six starts for them in the 2003/2004 season. He then joined to Tranmere Rovers in 2004 and made 63 starts before retiring in 2006.

After retiring, Mark became a football agent with clients like Kyle Walker on his books and he is also the uncle of Danny Rose.

David Eyres

After having played non-league football for Morecambe, Southport and Rhyl, Eyres signed for Blackpool in 1989 and played for them for four years until he joined Burnley in 1993. David then made 171 appearances for the Clarets in another four year period before moving to Deepdale in 1997 for a fee of £80,000 and went on to make 89 appearances in his career at Deepdale.

Eyres had also been sent off in the FA Cup third-round match against Arsenal at Deepdale after North End went 2-0 up against the Gunners. He made 41 appearances during the 1999/2000 season and left the club at the end of that season.

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He then joined Oldham Athletic and made a further 181 appearances before retiring from the professional game at the age of 42 in 2006. Also, he briefly acted as joint caretaker manager with John Sheridan during the 2003/2004. He’s now an occasional match co-commentator for BBC Radio Lancashire.

Jonathan Macken

Macken signed for the Lilywhite in 1997 for £250,000 from Manchester United as part of the aforementioned deal that saw Colin Murdock and Michael Appleton move to Deepdale, having not made an appearance for the Red Devils’ first team.

During the season, Macken scored an important 19 league goals on our way to the title. In total, he scored 63 goals in 189 appearances for North End before moving to Manchester City in 2002 for a club-record (at the time) £5 million.

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Macken only managed to make 27 appearances for City over a three year period, before leaving for Crystal Palace in 2005 for a fee of £1.1 million. He also managed to make a single appearance for the Republic of Ireland during that time.

In his time at Palace, he made 25 appearances before he joined Ipswich Town on loan in 2007 before a permanent move to Derby County. Then a move to Barnsley came and finally, Jon joined Walsall before ending his professional career in 2012.

A spell in non-league then following with Northwich Victoria, Stockport County and a single appearance for Bamber Bridge in 2015. He then took over as manager of Radcliffe Borough in September 2017 but left this position in January 2020.

Steve Basham

Having initially played 19 games for his home town club Southampton in the top flight, Basham joined Preston on loan during the 1998/1999 season.

It was a successful spell with Basham scoring ten goals in 17 appearances and resulted in a £200,000 move to Lancashire at the end of that season after lengthy transfer tribunal proceedings. Basham played 24 times in Preston’s title-winning season, scoring three times. However, his career was significantly curtailed in the following season during a home match against Tranmere Rovers in October 2000.

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Steve scored the winner in a 1-0 victory for North End but did not see the final whistle after suffering a terrible broken leg in a tackle with Rovers’ Jason Koumas. Basham wouldn’t play again until August 2001.

After making his comeback, Basham struggled to gain time in the North End first team and left the club in 2002, joining Oxford United where he would go on to play for five seasons, scoring 43 goals.

He then played briefly for Exeter City in the fourth tier and Luton Town in the Conference before ending his playing career with non-league Oxford City. Basham now works in finance, having qualified as an accountant after finishing his playing career.

Bjarki Gunnlaugsson

Something of a cult hero in his time at Preston, Gunnlaugsson had played for a range of clubs across Europe prior to joining North End, including Feyenoord, FC Nurnberg, Molde and KR Reykjavik.

While he wasn’t the most prolific goalscorer in his time at North End with only 45 appearances and two goals to his name, his wholehearted displays in leading the line ensured that the majority of fans continued to back him. He also played 27 times for the Icelandic national team and scored seven goals.

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He also played for his country alongside his brother Arnar Gunnlaugson, also in England at the same time with Leicester City. Bjarki left North End in 2002 and joined Arnar at KR Reykjavik before retiring in 2013.

He was also player/manager of Icelandic club IA Akranes on two occasions between 2006 and 2009. Since 2011 he has been working as a football agent across Scandinavia.

Brett Angell

After having started his professional career at Portsmouth, without making an appearance, Angell played for Cheltenham Town, Stockport County and Southend United before he secured a move to Premier League side Everton in 1994 where he made 18 appearances.

He then moved to Sunderland and then back to Stockport County, from where he joined Preston on loan in the second half of the 1999/2000 season. At 6′ 4″ in height, he provided an alternative attacking option which the Lilywhites did not possess at that time.

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A return of eight goals from 15 appearances provided the boost that North End’s promotion push needed and many of these were crucial. He scored the winning goals in the matches against Bournemouth (a), Scunthorpe United (h) and Millwall (h). His loan spell was not made permanent and Angell moved on to Walsall in the summer of 2000, followed by time spent at Rushden & Diamonds, Port Vale and Queens Park Rangers before retiring in 2003.

He is now a coach with the New Zealand FA, having been manager of Hawke’s Bay United for five years until the summer of 2019.

David Moyes

Many will be familiar with the ascent of Moyes as a football manager. He had taken over as Preston manager in 1998 as Gary Peters’ replacement.

Moyes steered North End away from the relegation zone that season and in the following campaign took Preston to the third tier play-offs which ended in defeat to Gillingham over two legs in the semi-finals. The following season would see North End lift the league title and that remains Moyes’ only major trophy as a manager to this day.

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After narrowly missing out on taking Preston into the Premier League at the first attempt in the 2000/2001 season following a 3-0 defeat to Bolton Wanderers in the Championship play-off final in Cardiff, Moyes left for Everton as Walter Smith’s replacement in 2002 and spent over a decade in charge of the Toffees.

While he didn’t win a trophy at Goodison Park, his tenure was an unqualified success as Everton broke into the ‘top four’ in the 2004/2005 season, narrowly missing out on playing in the Champions League after losing to Villarreal in the qualifying round in 2005.

The Toffees also reached the last 16 of the Uefa Cup in 2007/2008 and got to the FA Cup Final in 2009. He was then chosen to be the successor to Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United in the summer of 2013, but the move did not work out well (as most will be well aware) and Moyesie left the club after just 10 months in the role.

A brief tenure at Real Sociedad followed before Moyes returned to English football with Sunderland for the 2016/2017 season, but he was unable to prevent the Black Cats from being relegated.

He then moved to West Ham United part-way through the 2017/2018 season and guided them away from the bottom 3 of the Premier League. After not being offered a new contract, Moyes left the Hammers in 2018 but returned as manager in December 2019 following the sacking of Manuel Pellegrini.

What are your memories of the season that we last lifted a league title? Let us know on social media, we’re on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Finally, if you haven’t already give the latest episode of From the Finney Meets… a listen. Jake met with former manager Phil Brown to talk about his time in charge in PR1.