Preston North End Football Club
Preston North End Football Club was formed in 1881. The club has had a turbulent past, but few can argue that Preston is a club with one of the richest histories in English football. Preston’s Deepdale site is also home to the National Football Museum, which was opened in September 1998 by FIFA President Sepp Blatter.
Preston North End also holds a number of records in the English game, including being first club in English football to field a black professional player, and holding the record for the highest ever FA Cup victory – 26-0 v Hyde.
Lancashire is also home to a number of other Premiership and Championship sides, including Bolton Wanderers, Blackburn Rovers and Wigan Athletic. However, games against Burnley and fierce rivals Blackpool, consistently prove not to be for the faint hearted.
The original invincibles
The Lilywhites are well known for being one of the original founding members of the Football League in 1888, and they play their home games at Deepdale. Major William Sudell proved to be the 19th century equivalent of Arsene Wenger, in that he systematically hand picked top quality players from other countries (in this case Scotland), and brought them to Preston North End.
Many clubs were outraged that the FA were apparently letting this happen unopposed, and so the FA took action by expelling Preston from the FA Cup in 1884. This created unrivalled levels of controversy in the north of England, and the FA had no choice but to legalise professionalism in 1885, after a great number of northern clubs threatened to form their own football association.
Sudell’s methods of selecting elite Scottish players may have been controversial, but no-one can argue with its effectiveness. After hammering Hyde 26-0 in the FA Cup first round during the 1887/88 season, they then went on to become the first ever English League Champions. As if this wasn’t already an achievement in itself, Preston added the exclamation mark on their dominance within the English game by winning the FA Cup in the same season, and later beat Stoke City 10-0 to record their highest ever league win. North End went down in history from this point as being the original ‘double’ winners, and had certainly set the benchmark for others to follow in the English game.
Fall of the invincibles
Sadly for Preston, others were soon matching the footballing standards that they had set, and this led to increased domestic competition for the club. The Lilywhites still managed to maintain the pressure at the top of the league for a couple of seasons following their famous ‘double’ success. However, things began to go wrong for Preston when a number of their more talented players left the club to earn more money elsewhere.
The Lilywhites had also narrowly survived a relegation play-off with Notts County, shortly before William Sudell left the club. The club was in turmoil, and the cracks in the club’s foundations were left even more exposed after Sudell was subsequently given a three-year prison sentence for embezzling funds from the mill at which he worked to the football club in order to fund players’ wages and expenses. The strain of losing a number of top quality players, and a variety of external pressures damaging the club, finally took its toll in 1901 when the club were relegated.
Despite this setback, Preston were able to regain their top flight status in 1904. However, for the next decade, the club proved to be too strong for opposition in Division Two, but continually battled relegation from Division One.
The club was in need of a break, following the league hopping tag which was beginning to attach itself to Preston North End. The war halted the progression of the English game for a number of years, and many fans hoped that they would soon be watching a rejuvenated Preston side. Despite reaching the FA Cup final in 1922 under the stewardship of Vincent Hayes, the club ultimately repeated their pre-war form and this culminated in relegation in 1925.
Resurgence of Preston North End
Many men took the managers’ hotseat at Deepdale, each hoping to guide North End back to Division One. Neither Frank Richards, Alex Gibson nor Lincoln Hayes were successful in restoring Preston’s top flight status. James Taylor had been an instrumental figurehead at the club for a number of years, but his greatest masterstroke is widely considered to be when he persuaded Ted Harper to swap Tottenham Hotspur for Preston in 1931.
Bill Shankly joined the club from Carlisle United in 1933, and proved to be one of a number of influential signings for North End at this time. Harper almost single-handedly fired Preston North End back into Division One with a record breaking 37 goals in the 1932/33 season. The club as a whole continued to match achievements on the pitch, as Deepdale’s facilities also slowly began to progress.
The Lilywhites were now beginning to perform consistently in the domestic league and were also beaten FA Cup finalists in 1937. However, the team were once again back in the FA Cup final the following season, and made no mistake with their second chance at FA Cup glory. Sadly for Preston, this proved to be their last domestic trophy to date. The team may have gone on to add more silverware to their trophy cabinet had the progression of English football not been halted once more by World War Two. There was cause for optimism though, as at this time, a young Tom Finney was making his way through the ranks at Preston North End.
Post War Preston
Finney eventually made his debut for North End in 1946 at the age of 24. However, the Lilywhites were relegated following a poor 1948/49 season. It was at this time when the legendary Tommy Docherty joined North End from Celtic, and Eddie Quigley broke the British transfer record having signed from Sheffield Wednesday for £26,000. This injection of talent appeared to inspire Preston, and they were soon back in Division One.
After an encouraging season back in the top flight, the Lilywhites almost added a third league title to their collection, but Arsenal managed to steal it from their grasp after a 3-2 victory over Burnley. Preston kept up the domestic pressure, and were able to reach the FA Cup final the following season. However, fate was once again not on the side of the Lancashire club, and the Lilywhites lost a close final 3-2 against West Bromwich Albion.
Cliff Britton took charge of Preston North End in 1956, and oversaw the final few years of Tom Finney’s career. The ageing star was becoming increasingly aware that his playing days were coming to an end, and decided to hang up his boots in 1960, having played 433 games for Preston North End. Finney’s departure also proved to have a detrimental effect on the team’s performances, and they subsequently surrendered their top flight status, which is yet to be regained to this day.
Preston’s youth team products, however, were also showing encouraging signs for the future of the club, as they reached the FA Youth Cup Final against Chelsea. The crowd of 17,764 also set a new record of attendance for a youth team game in the process. In 1961, Cliff Britton realised he could no longer take the club forward, and was replaced by Jimmy Milne.
An era to forget
Milne’s success at the club was not immediate, although he did manage to guide Preston to the FA Cup Final once more in 1964, narrowly losing 3-2 against West Ham United. Howard Kendal also became the youngest ever player to grace the FA Cup Final, at seventeen years of age. Buoyed by the achievement of their team reaching the final, fans were expecting a quick return to the top flight. However, Jimmy Milne proved he wasn’t the man to take them up, after a seven year stint at the club. Bobby Seith took charge in 1968, but North End were relegated in 1970, following a lethal combination of poor form on the pitch, and losing several key players to other clubs.
The Lilywhites were now left stranded in the wilderness of Division Three, the lowest in the club’s history. Alan Ball Sr took charge, and immediately hauled North End back up to Division Two in his first season in charge. His stay at the club proved to be short but sweet, as he left in 1973. The club began to ‘yo-yo’ between Division Two and Three once more, as Preston slowly gained a reputation as a selling club.
This led to the sale of the hugely influential Michael Robinson to Manchester City for a record £765,000 fee. Preston were no longer progressing as a club, and began a shocking period of decline which almost saw them cease to exist. North End were again relegated to Division Three in 1981, later followed by the sacking of former Lilywhites legend, Tommy Docherty.
Although Gordon Lee took charge at the club and briefly halted Preston’s slide down the league, crowds at Deepdale were now sparse, and fans’ confidence in their team had long since disappeared. Conceding 100 goals in the 1984/85 season inevitably saw North End once again face the guillotine, leaving them in the unheard-of territory of Division Four. The Lilywhites’ form was so poor in this division, that they were later forced to apply for re-election after finishing 91st in the football league ladder.
Fortunately this application was successful, and the club promptly laid a new synthetic surface at Deepdale in an attempt to change the team’s fortunes. In the 1986/87 season, North End finished as Division Four Runners-Up. The club now realised that a gradual period of progression was needed, and John McGrath was in charge as Preston began their assault on Division Three.
A formidable side was now beginning to take shape, including Sam Allardyce, John Thomas, Gary Brazil, as well as new signings Brian Mooney and Tony Ellis. Despite the glittering array of talent on offer at Deepdale, the club failed to get out of Division Three. McGrath was soon sacked and Les Chapman took charge in 1990. Unfortunately it was an all too familiar story for North End, as more big name players were sold on to secure financial stability at the club. Form on the pitch was consistently poor, and Chapman seemed certain for the sack. In 1992, Preston’s board duly obliged and Sam Allardyce had a brief role as Preston Caretaker Manager, before John Beck was appointed as full-time boss at the club.
The club’s nightmare stint under Beck was complete, as they were relegated back to the bottom tier in English football. Fans were becoming restless, and the plastic pitch was ripped up and replaced by the traditional grass playing surface. However, this had little effect on the team’s performance, and Beck stepped down as North End Manager in 1994. Gary Peters was next in line to take up the managerial hotseat at Deepdale.
David Beckham joined North End for a month’s loan during the 1994/95 season, and signs were there that the club were not too far away from domestic success.
Continuity at the club
A new sponsorship deal with BAXI, coupled with a number of influential signings, led to a resurgence of Preston North End. The Lilywhites were crowned Division Three Champions after an awe-inspiring 1995/96 campaign, spearheaded by in-form striker Andy Saville. This was followed by the grand opening of the Tom Finney Stand at Deepdale, later re-named the Sir Tom Finney Stand. Continuing the success at the club was now very much the theme in the board’s mind, and new signings including Mark Rankine were brought in to bolster North End’s attack.
Realising that further success was not going to be achieved under Gary Peters, he was soon ushered into his new role as Director for the Centre of Excellence. His successor was a young David Moyes, who would go on to have four very successful years as North End Manager.
The Lilywhites very nearly made it back into English Football’s second tier after a pulsating play-off against Gillingham. The following season, Preston’s form continued and they finished the season as Division Two Champions in April 2000. In December 2000, Preston chose to smash their transfer record by bringing in David Healy from Manchester United for £1,500,000, rising to £1,800,000 depending on appearances. This was a bold move for a club who had not long before, been in a period of financial uncertainty.
Promotion to the Premiership was now becoming a very realistic possibility in 2002, even though the Lilywhites sold Jon Macken to Manchester City, and also lost David Moyes to Everton in the same season. Moyes going to Everton also saw him as the most expensive manager ever at the time, following his compensation package topping £1,000,000.
Craig Brown took over at Preston, but his defensive tactics were never popular with the North End faithful, and he soon left the club in 2004 to be replaced by the charismatic Scot, Billy Davies. Davies proved to be a revelation at the club, and continued Moyes’ good work, by guiding North End to the Play-off Final in 2005 against West Ham United at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium. Although they were narrowly beaten 1-0 in a tense encounter, Preston were able to again reach the Play-offs the following season.
Davies then unceremoniously left the club in 2006 to join Derby County, after a bitter war of words with Chairman Derek Shaw. Paul Simpson took charge at North End having had previous success at Carlisle United. Preston’s early season form saw them race up the league into the automatic promotion places, with David Nugent providing the majority of the goals. However, notable late pushes from Derby County, Birmingham City and Sunderland, saw North End slip out of contention for promotion in the final few weeks of the season.
David Nugent was then controversially sold to Premiership side Portsmouth for a club record fee, and the pressure was on to find a replacement goal scorer before the start of the 2007/08 campaign. With strikers of Nugent’s quality in short supply, it was no surprise that North End were unable to replace him directly. North End are currently struggling so far this season, and Paul Simpson has recently been sacked following the club’s disastrous run of results including a 3-0 loss away at Hull City.
Everton assistant manager Alan Irvine has now been drafted in as the new boss of Preston North End, as the Lilywhites battle to remain a Championship club.
- Football League Division One Champions: 1888/89, 1889/90
- Football League Division One Runners-Up: 1890/91, 1891/92, 1892/93, 1905/06, 1952/53, 1957/58
- Football League Division Two Champions: 1903/04, 1912/13, 1950/51, 1999/2000
- Football League Division Two Runners-Up: 1914/15, 1933/34
- Football League Division Three Champions: 1970/71, 1995/96
- Football League Division Four Runners-Up: 1986/87
- FA Cup Winners: 1889, 1938
- FA Cup Runners-Up: 1888, 1922, 1937, 1954, 1964
- Record League Victory: 10-0 v Stoke, Division One, 14 September 1889
- Record Cup Victory: 26-0 v Hyde, FA Cup 1st rd, 15 October 1887
- Record Defeat: 0-7 v Blackpool, Division One, 1 May 1948
- Highest League Scorer in Season: Ted Harper, 37, Division Two, 1932/33
- Most League Goals in Total Aggregate: Tom Finney, 187, 1946-1960
- Most Capped Player: Tom Finney, 76, England
- Most League Appearances: Alan Kelly, 447, 1961-1975
- Youngest League Player: Steve Doyle, 16 years 166 days v Tranmere Rovers, 15 November 1974
- Record Transfer Fee Received: £6,000,000 for David Nugent from Portsmouth, July 2007
- Record Transfer Fee Paid: £1,500,000 for David Healy from Manchester United, December 2000