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Friday, February 18, 2011

QPR Report: A Preston Perspective of Preston Behind the Scenes

Enlarged Photo: Tom Finney vs Arthur Jefferson: September 1947

Enlarged Photo: Rodney Marsh Scoring against Preston in January 1968
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Preston North Ends Vital' Walter Pilkington has very kindly responded to some Q&As regarding Preston North End.

How long have you supported Preston? And how long have you been involved with the Vital Preston/ Website?

I've been a Preston North End fan for a number of years now, I moved to the area with work and started going to a few games and before I knew it I was hooked. My attending games at Deepdale seemed to coincide with an upturn in the Club's fortunes, not that I am taking any credit for that. I think that run of success might be at an end.

How do you get on with the other Preston fan sites: Are there any serious inter-Preston Messageboard conflicts (as there certainly are between certain QPR boards!)?

Conflicts? Our fans are far too busy arguing about the merits of players on the field and the abilities of our Chairman to start arguing between messageboards. At the moment it is a harmonious relationship, however in League One that might all change!

Do Preston have one (or two) special rivals? Is it a two-way rivalry? How do you feel about having the Hall of Fame taken away from you because it's not a "glamorous" area?

Our big rivals are Blackpool. It's sickened a large majority of fans that they have gone into the Premier League, especially as they managed it on a shoestring budget. Hopefully they will sneak into the relegation zone on the last day of the season. Our main rivals in the Championship this season have been Burnley, we always have some real humdingers against our six-fingered friends from East Lancs, the game earlier this season no exception.

What do you think of your current manager? Do you think he will save you? What did you think of his predecessors?

Phil Brown was handed the impossible task of lifting the spirits of a demoralised squad. When he arrived most of the better players thought they would be moving on, either in January or next summer, the rest were either too young to understand the magnitude of the situation Preston are in, or like the majority of the squad, on-loan so they haven't got that long-term commitment to the cause. Saying that he's not helped his case by playing some pretty weird formations. We started with 3-5-2 and now we are playing 4-3-3, neitherof these systems has brought us a win. Brown Phil's convinced that when we win one game we will win the next three or four.

Darren Ferguson was out of his depth. His gung-ho tactics might have worked in League One and League Two but they were suicidal in the cut and thrust of the Championship. It was a pretty strange decision to appoint him, however his dad was, or still is, best pals with our owner Trevor Hemmings.

Alan Irvine looked to have the tactical nouse and knowhow to do a good job at Deepdale. However he stifled any creative flair we might have had in favour of safety first tactics, this combined with a poor run of results, turning up the opportunity to sign Charlie Adam, the fact that he was always hawking himself to bigger clubs and the fact that Hemmings wanted Alex's Son to have a job led to his surprising departure.

What do you think of the current Preston Owners (and all the others)? WHY are they involved with Preston? What do you expect? Could they realistically have done more to have kept you up this season?

Last summer was a pretty surreal experience. We were threatened with a winding-up order after failing to pay a hefty tax-bill. Trevor Hemmings had been propping the club up for a couple of years and I think he got fed up of being an outside investor and at the end of the season told the last regime, 'I'm not paying anymore bills unless I own the club'. He then bought out the majority shareholders and then went to work on the rest of the shareholding, he basically got the club for peanuts, however one of his other companies is owed about £15m so it's all relative.

He appointed Maurice Lindsay as Chairman last summer. The former rugby league supremo certainly has a way with words, but it's his actions, or lack of them which might have hastened North End's demise this season. From what I understand his cost-cutting policies throughout the club have killed morale and it's a horrible place to work.

You are obviously disappointed with how Preston are doing this season. But in you heart of hearts, what were you expecting pre-season? existence? How did you get to the situation that you are in today?

The problem with Trevor Hemmings taking over was that due to his massive wealth there were a lot of fans expecting North End to go on a huge spending spree. Maurice Lindsay actually said that he wanted the Club to consolidate and aim for mid-table and it became pretty clear that we wouldn't be getting the cheque-book out. Nobody expected us to go down though, Hemmings had previously spent a small fortune under Alan Irvine to help us escape relegation.

Who are you Dangermen/Most valued/most overrated/most underrated players?

Dangermen??? Not sure we've got one, Keith Treacy was our star larker at the start of the season, but rumoured off-field problems have led to inconsistent performances on the field. Jon Parkin was one of our most valued players but we sold him for a pittance in the transfer window. We've got a group of young lads coming through from the youth system who might have a real chance of blossoming in League One.

Prediction for season promotion/relegation places - And how would that compare with pre-season prediction?

Can't see too much changing at either the top or the bottom. QPR and Forest look strong enough in all areas and have the strength in depth for the gruelling run-in, Cardiff usually self-implode towards the end of the season and that won't change this year. At the bottom it looks like North End and Sc**thorpe for sure, I would like to see Middlesbrough or Sheffield United come down with us, but I've a feeling that Dougie Freedman's inexperience might just see Crystal Palace drop.

What is your view and the general Preston view of QPR (If we even feature in your consciousness)?
Over the years: a few shared players (Clive Clark, Mick Robinson, Patrick Agyemang. Chris Day, Danny Dichio, Matt Hill, Paul McGhee - Tommy Docherty as manager)

Tommy Docherty is statistically North End's worst ever manager - he killed the club in the early 1980s. We've shared a few other players over the times, most recently the enigma that is Patrick Agyemang. I think many expected QPR to buy their way to the Premier League, but I'm pleasantly surprised that you went with the sensible route and employed a wily old manager in Warnock to bring you success.

What are your past Encounter Memories - Best Memory/Worst Memory of Past QPR-Preston Encounters? Who is your favourite QPR Player over the years? (And your least favourite)? Ditto any view of Neil Warnock?
(It's almost exactly ten years ago since Preston smashed QPR 5-0 and our manager Gerry Francis resigned, and we were relegated to "Division III"

The most recent memory is our final game of the season two years back when we needed a win to have a chance of sneaking into the Play-Offs. QPR had nothing to play for, but Gareth Ainsowrth's team played like their lives depended on it and even when we went ahead we were made to sweat it out. I also have fond memories of a trip to Loftus Road in 2005, we all turned up in bowler hats and in front of the ITV cameras came away with a win, Chris Lucketti and David Nugent scoring the goals. I just remember Nugent wearing a big yellow shirt that looked like it was far too big for him.

Are you looking forward to playing QPR?

Why not. We've struggled against all the mediocre teams in the division, perhaps a game against one of the top teams will inspire us and we can do what Sc**thorpe did to Forest in midweek.



Where, realistically, do you think Preston will be in five years time?

Maurice Lindsay spoke of a three-year plan with North End being in the Premier at the end of it, unfortunately a few are wondering now whether he meant the Blue Square Premier! To be honest we've seen no sign of ambition from the current board and it seems they will be in charge until Hemmings recoups a large chunk of his money. League One is notoriously difficult to get out of so I would accept a few years of stability and then when we get some ambitious owners have a real go at it.

Do you have any advice for QPR fans, in the event that we do go up? (Spend more/spend less; keep the manager; change the manager, etc)

Don't spend fortunes on foreign mercanaries. An intelligent transfer policy and gradual improvement and you could be the top team in London again"

Once again many, very many thanks to Preston North End Vital's Walter Pilkington http://www.pne.vitalfootball.co.uk

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