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05/06: Preview: Preston North End
Opposition opinion
by Gary Bond of Lilywhite Magic

What happened last season?
In a nut shell a hell of a lot! The season started with much pessimism and showed in North End's performances in the first few games. Two years of clueless tactics, crap football and numerous excuses for defeats finally came to an abrupt stop at the end of August with the sacking of Brown the Clown. Our prayers had been answered!

Billy Davies was made caretaker manager although he tried to follow his good friend out the door but thank God Derek rejected his attempts to resign. After a few games there was an improvement - not a great deal but enough for Billy to be made manager on a permanent basis.

The next few months were a bit hit and miss results wise but Billy was already showing his intentions and admitted what his predecessor failed to recognise - the squad was too small and new additions were needed. The first departure was the greedy money-grabbing twit going by the name of David Healy. The manner of his departure provoked an angry reaction from the vast majority of Northenders with the reason already highlighted above!

December was where it all started though. After a 2-1 defeat to Burnley, we embarked upon a ten game unbeaten run which catapulted us into the play-off race. Not only this but throughout December/January saw us make some important signings - something I was crying out for at the same stage the season before but the 'Clueless One' stating we had 'adequate provision' (and that backfired on him!)

Straight after our ten game unbeaten run (we eventually lost to Forest) we embarked on another run, this time lasting nine games. This was enough to secure a play-off place. In the semi-finals we beat Derby 2-0 on aggregate to reach our second play-off final in four years. Unfortunately on the day the majority of players bar one or two, didn't 'turn up' as we lost to 'Wet Spam' 1-0. Now we have the unfortunate honour of being the first club to lose 3 play-off finals and undoubtedly have the worst play-off record. Life isn't fair!

What's going to happen next season?
Well we can certainly build on our success from last season and hopefully bounce back a lot better than we did in 2001. Three new signings have been made but once or two more will need to be made if we are to make a stronger challenge for promotion in the coming season. Most notably a new left winger is the most urgent and has been proved difficult to fill after another money-grabber left to join the ex-PNE players scrapheap at Elland Road.

The only worry is people being big-headed and expecting to be promoted, which is the worst thing you can do as it can come back to haunt you - the important thing is belief and I'm one of many who has it. The team spirit and morale within the squad is at an all-time high. Not only this, Billy Davies and David 'Ned' Kelly have the full backing of both the fans and players.

Despite the play-off final defeat things are still 'on a high' - recently boosted by the record season ticket sales. So can North End go one better than last season? Possibly if you go by the team spirit, fantastic management, players' abilities and most importantly working as a team. Here's hoping!

Soundbites (from assorted Census correspondents)

"For Sale 1999 Fiat Brava 1.2 SX 66k miles, recent clutch and timing belt Good Condition 1350 ovno"

"Years ago, when I was 16, I only looked 14 and really struggled getting served in pubs. I then bought a Preston Bus driver's jumper from a chairty shop and started wearing it down the pub. It worked and I never got asked for ID again. Last night, I found that jumper."

"On a hot summers night, I find Grolsch is great. (apologies to Mr Loaf)"

"Nugent for England, Mawene for France, Smith for the glue factory"

"Are these results for your own perverse pleasure? Why doesn't Tom Finney have a small shrine in the corner of every football based webpage? Is this gonna be the best part of Watford's season?" (Yes, dunno and quite possibly - ed)

"Andy Smith is the child of more than one generation and will father many more. He is the tip of one hell of an iceberg."

"Britain has invented a new missile. It's called the civil servant - it doesn't work and it can't be fired. "

"Spark plugs for Mercedes are too expensive. Christmas should be like the world cup; every 4 years and you have to qualify for it. Grass and weeds grow far too fast in my garden. When the African debt is written off, who's going to lend them anymore money? People should eat more cheese."

"Leeds Utd are looking to hire zimmer frames for the coming season."

"Watch us go! Up or Down! One or t'other!"

"Bernard Bresslaw was my uncle."