By Matt Rowson
Before I start I want to make it very clear to those who have accused me of blindly hating everybody that I have nothing against Preston North End in particular. They don't play in some tin-pot little hell hole which should have been condemned ten years ago, they haven't gone out and spent seven million quid on Premiership has-beens and nearly-weres and they don't have a pompous git with a dodgy barnet in charge who thinks he is qualified to run the game better than any referee.
They are, however, indisputably irritating in a tiresome sort of way. I will not dwell on never seeming to be able to obtain the team picture in any of my Panini sticker albums, although the jury should bear this evidence in mind as an early step in the wrong direction. Last season's encounter provides a more recent instance... 90 minutes of battering and frustration before a 90th minute winner courtesy of either Steve Palmer or Devon White, depending on when you think the ball finally crossed the line (I preferred to give it to Devon... Steve is quality and already has enough brownie points, Devon was struggling to survive on comedy value alone).
More recently still, Preston were until last Saturday's fiasco the only team to record a home league victory against the Golden Boys this season. As if we haven't had enough of Burnley just recently, the Lilywhites' squad contains a good number of imports from their Lancashire neighbours... winger David Eyres, the twice-over unfortunate Kurt Nogan (think about it), and excellent but sadly absent fullback Gary Parkinson all joined Preston from the Clarets. Elsewhere, Preston also endear themselves by having jumped on the bandwagon of shelling out barrelfulls of cash for Manchester United rejects by boasting the £500,000 midfielder Michael Appleton (remind me who United lost to in last season's Youth Cup ?). An altogether more sensible investment was centre-half Sean Gregan, signed last season from Darlington for £300,000, and now winning many plaudits and a (rebuffed) bid of twice the amount from Aston Villa. The midfield also features Mark Rankine, once the engine of GT's Wolves midfield, and Lee Ashcroft, back from sabbatical at West Brom.
Preston's recent form has been poor, seeing them slide down the table to the point where they're barely ahead of Luton. Whilst Fulham have capably demonstrated how a couple of wins can make all the difference in making your league position look far stronger than it is, Gary Peters has paid for his team's slide (and not before time, according to Preston's unofficial website). Rumours persist that Preston are about to jump on yet another bandwagon just as the wheels fall off by appointing a big-name manager in Ian Rush. Interestingly, caretaker David Moyes has been appointed to tide things over until the end of the season when, by complete coincidence, Rush is reported to be hanging up his boots. Read Chris Lawton's excellent article "A worrying trend" if you too are the chairman of a lower division club with too much time on your hands.
I can't think of anything else worth saying about Preston, beyond the hope that we beat them hollow, so I'll finishing by spiralling off on an ever-popular tangent with a quote from Les Ferdinand's autobiography, which describes Ray Wilkins' words of wisdom when Les was put out at being subbed by the insane Don Howe at Q.P.R. :
"Whenever you're doing well in this game, there is always someone who'll turn round and kick you in the bollocks."
Maybe he should send a copy to Mickey Adams. One hopes that Wycombe return the favour on Saturday.