Now we’re getting into it, or at least Pete Sixsmith is. True, proper history. His journey through the football grounds of England brings us to memories of the era when Blackburn Rovers were admitted to the Football League instead of cup-winning-toff-defeating, working-class Blackburn Olympic, who subsequently folded, the first penalty kick was yet to be taken, and one of the founder members of the Football League and twice recent Champions were about to be upset by some upstarts from even further north. Pete wasn’t there, of course. That took another 80 years. Let’s read on and find out how his visit went:
Our first visit to Deepdale was on the February 2, 1891 when we drew 0-0 with The Invincibles who fell two points short of retaining their title, losing out to Everton. This was our first season in the Football League and we finished a creditable sixth. The next season, and the season after that, we won the league – and then went and won it again two years later. It surely was “The Team of All The Talents”.
We had one of the finest goalkeepers in the history of the club in Ned Doig (456 appearances and four Championship medals), a splendid captain in Hugh “Lalty” Wilson, who took prodigious throw ins one handed and prompted a change in the Laws of the Game and a prolific goalscorer in John Middleton Campbell who managed 133 goals for the club in 199 appearances on his way to three Championship medals. Oh for players like that now.
For both clubs, the possibility of ever winning the top league is about as likely as Ryanair offering a full champagne and caviar service on their flights to Malaga – indeed, the way things are with us, we would welcome a chance to have a crack at the Championship title next season while Preston must think that if Burnley, Bolton, Wigan and Blackpool can get into the top flight, why can’t they?
Deepdale is a much improved ground since my first visit there in April 1972. Now, it is a thoroughly modern stadium with four new stands all named after prominent figures in the club’s history. We are in the Bill Shankly Kop, the old North End of the ground. Shankly played for Preston from 1933-1949, playing in the Cup Finals of 1937 and 1938. They lost the first one but won the second with a last minute penalty.
The opposite end is named after the long serving Irish goalkeeper, Alan Kelly who played for them when they last reached the Cup Final in 1964, while one side is called the Invincibles Pavilion Stand in homage to that splendid side that represented this proud town in the 1880s and 90s.
The Main Stand bears the name of Preston’s most famous son, Sir Tom Finney, a wonderful player who served the Lilywhites all his career and still found time to run his own plumbing business – a bit like Barry Dunn. Finney could play anywhere along the forward line, scoring 210 goals in 474 games and prompting Bill Shankly to say
“Tom Finney would have been great in any team, in any match, in any age …..even if he had been wearing an overcoat.”
We are in the presence of one of the great football clubs on Saturday, in one of the best medium sized stadiums in the country.
It wasn’t like that when I first visited in 1972, as you can see at oldgrounds.co.uk
The Kop had a roof at the back and acres of empty terracing, the Town End had a very low roof which made viewing difficult, the main stand had seen better days and the Pavilion was standing aloof and remote from the rest of the ground.
The Grandstand was an impressive structure, running the length of the pitch and even curving to the right when it met the North End. It was bench seating if memory serves and there were more posts there holding it up than at any other ground I have seen, but you felt that you were in the presence of history when you were there.
But Deepdale’s pride and joy was The Pavilion, opposite the grandstand. Built in 1934 for the then astronomical sum of £9,000, (the money was raised by selling 9,999 shares at £1 each) it contained the dressing rooms, the directors’ area and rooms for special guests. They were whisked up to their seats by an electric lift past stained glass windows and away from the textile workers and dockers who made up the bulk of the North End support. By 1972, it was a bit down at heel as Preston completed their first season back in the second level. We had beaten them 4-3 at Roker in September 1970, when they had come back from 3-1 down, only to fall to a last second winner by 16-year-old debutant Jimmy Hamilton.
The return took place in April and was the third of the three traditional Easter fixtures. On Good Friday, a Ken Wagstaff goal had given both points to Hull City and just about finished our promotion hopes. Two days later, Burnley went into a 3-1 lead at Roker, the kind of thing that, in these impatient days, would lead to a mass walk out. Dave Watson, with his second goal of the game pulled one back in the 75th minute, Keith Coleman equalised in the 76th and then Billy Hughes got the winner in the 79th. There was much cavorting around in the Clock Stand Paddock……
So, the next day, I borrowed the family Vauxhall Viva and took off to Preston for an evening game with North End. Faint hopes of promotion lingered and Alan Brown hadn’t given up. He left out Brian Chambers and gave Mick Horswill his debut, and John Lathan was replaced by Billy Hughes who had come on for Tueart the previous day.
We lined up
Jimmy Montgomery; Dick Malone, Martin Harvey; Mickey Horswill, Richie Pitt, Ian Porterfield; Mick McGiven, Bobby Kerr, Dave Watson, Billy Hughes, Dennis Tueart. Sub; Jimmy Hamilton.
Alan Kelly; John McMahon, Neil Young; John Bird, Graham Hawkins, Alan Spavin; Ricky Heppolette, David Hughes, Hughie McIlmoyle, George Lyall, Alan Tarbuck sub; Alex Spark.
We played some decent football that night. Dave Watson put us ahead only for Neil Young to equalise. He was the former Manchester City forward who had scored the winner for City in the 1969 FA Cup Final. His career had stalled at Maine Road and he had moved to Preston for the then tidy sum of £48,000. His Preston career lasted three seasons before he left for Rochdale and a subsequent sad decline which saw him have financial problems and suffer from depression. He died of cancer in 2011 and is still regarded with great affection by those City fans who have watched the club in the days prior to them becoming a sporting arm of the Abu Dhabi ruling family.
Ian Porterfield restored the lead seven minutes later and Dennis Tueart wrapped it up with a splendid goal early in the second half to give us just a glimmer of hope. A 1-1 home draw with Cardiff City and a 1-3 defeat at Ashton Gate soon extinguished that.
Check out the rest of our PNE-SAFC buildup:
- Guess the Score by clicking on this paragraph. Even if your support Preston, you could win a mug. But a 2-1 home win had already been taken
Deepdale is a ground we have struggled on over the years. Roy Keane lost twice there in the last promotion season and there was a disappointing defeat there on New Year’s Day 2005 when Andy Welsh made his debut and Stephen Elliott and Sean Thornton scored. My best day there was in February 1980, despite a 1-0 defeat. It was a prodigious drinking day with Sixsmith Minor and Sixsmith Minimus in the Moorbrook Hotel on North Road, a fine Thwaites pub and a 15-minute walk to the ground. Much ale was taken and Young Michael gave his rather splendid monkey impersonation as we walked through the park. Happy days……
I shall not be reacquainting myself with Deepdale as I am off to Banbury to watch Shildon in their FA Cup Third Qualifying Round game against a team who started out as Banbury Spencer, representing the town’s corset factory employees. Hopefully the Railwaymen will roll on to the next round and we can show the world that we are not quite dead and buried. Hmmmm.
*Mick Horswill & Dave Watson courtesy www.therokerend.com