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The History Of Preston North End

Roll Of Honour

Simon Grayson with the Play-Off Final trophyFounded 1880
Founder Member of the English Football League 1888
League Champions 1889, 1890
FA Cup Winners 1889, 1938
War Cup Winners 1941
FA Cup Finalists 1888, 1922, 1937, 1954, 1964
Lancashire Cup Winners 1887, 1893, 1895, 1900, 1996
Division One Runners-up 1891, 1892, 1893, 1906, 1953, 1958
Division Two Champions 1904, 1913, 1951, 2000*
Division Three Champions 1971, 1996*
* In 1991 the former Division One broke away from the Football League and formed the Premier League, the former Divisions Two, Three and Four later became the Championship, League One and League Two respectively.


Preston North End can be traced back to 1863, but at that time it was linked with cricket and the first game of football was 15 years away. In the early 1860's cricket was the only organised game of note in the town and the normal venue for this activity was the Marsh, an irregular stop of land on the Ribble Estuary at Ashton and which today is the site for the GEC works. Cricket can be linked with Wellfield Road School.

In that year there was a split amongst the club members when the majority opted for a move to Moor Park where the Corporation had opened a public Cricket ground. The newly formed club using Moor Park was named North End simply as an indication of the club’s base being in the north end of the town.

The first President was George Howarth and subscriptions were 2d a week. The club fell on hard times and almost disbanded, but new members were recruited to ease the financial crisis and one of these new comers was William Sudell who became a member on 3rd August 1867 when he was 16-years-old, having lived in the town all his life. He was a good swimmer and cyclist, a keen cricketer and a very good rugby forward.

In spite of the financial problems not being resolved, the members made a memorable and courageous step on 21st January 1875 when they took a lease on a field at Deepdale, a field which was to be the home of the finest football team of the era.

Playing cricket and dabbling in other games such as lacrosse and rounders were not financially viable and so in 1877 members turned to rugby. Unfortunately, this venture was a failure since the club could not compete with the Grasshoppers who were already a well-established force. On the 5th October 1878 North End played its first game under association rules against Eagley. The game was played at Deepdale and was lost 1-0. For the record the team that played this game were: W Sudell, W Turner, J Sefton, T Charnley, T Wadeson, J Wadeson, C Miller, T Parkinson, JF Dodgson, R Green and H S Carmel (Cpt).

Bob HowarthThe success of other clubs in Lancashire who were playing soccer had not gone unnoticed at Deepdale and in May 1880 a resolution proposing the adoption of the association code was proposed by Mr Harry Carmel and seconded by William Charnley and was carried unanimously.

In March of 1881, North End played Blackburn Rovers and were beaten 10-0. This reverse following a defeat in the Lancashire Cup versus Turton did not however diminish enthusiasm and the next big leap forward was in the summer of 1883 when William Sudell, having seen tactics employed by neighbouring clubs went north to Scotland and obtained the services of N J Ross from Heart of Midlothian.

Ross became one of the best full backs of his time, other players who came from Scotland were Drummond, Russell and Gordon. Thus was formed the nucleus of the team which was to make North End so famous.

In 1884 following a draw against Upton Park at Deepdale a protest was made to the FA about the eligibility of some Preston players, but the basic reason for the protest was that Preston were paying their players. Sudell did not deny this so following expulsion from the cup competition he commenced his historical move to have professionalism legalised in that same year James Ross (younger brother of Nick) and Sam Thomson came down from Scotland and Robert Howarth, a local boy joined the club as full back.

The success which Sudell brought to Deepdale and the short time taken to achieve this is illustrated by the fact that from 22nd August 1885 to 26th April 1886, North End were undefeated and during the season won 59 out of 64 matches, scoring 318 goals and conceding only 60.

The InvinciblesIn 1886 William Sudell completed his team building with the signing of a centre forward, John Goodall, and the ‘Invincibles’ were on their way to making football history.

Another season worthy of note was in the season 1887/88 when North End won 42 consecutive matches, but there was bitter disappointment when - as hot favourites - they were beaten 2-1 in the FA Cup Final on 24th March 1888 by West Bromwich Albion.

However, next season 1888/89 not only were they founder members of the newly formed Football League, but they won the FA Cup and were the first team to achieve the double, doing this at the first opportunity, without losing a game or even conceding a goal in the FA Cup.

In 1889/90 North End were again Football League champions and were runners-up in the following three seasons.

A limited company was formed in 1893 which was the end of the Sudell reign, but the genius of a man who could build such a team and which justly earned the name the ‘Invincibles’ is fully recognised today.

North End is the only club from the founder members of the Football League who have played continuously on the same ground. Deepdale has been the venue for soccer for over 135 years.

Tom Smith with the FA Cup in 1938The period before the First World War is often referred to as yo-yo when North End were relegated to the second division on two occasions and immediately came back.

In 1922, they once more reached the FA Cup Final, but were beaten 1-0 by Huddersfield Town who scored from a penalty. 1924 saw the retirement of one of the club’s great stalwarts, Joe McCall who had played at Deepdale for 20 seasons.

From September 1925 for four seasons Alex James was a favourite, whose transfer to Arsenal in 1929 hit the football headlines when the fee involved was reported to be £9,000.

Following the departure of James, relegation to the third division was twice narrowly avoided, but what happened later with a management committee of four under the chairmanship of the late JI Taylor was a modern football romance.

Holdcroft, Lowe, Harper, Rowley, Tremelling, Shankly, Gallimore and Dougal were signed and promotion was gained in 1934. The two Beatties, Andy and Bobbie (unrelated), together with Mutch, Smith, Milne, Fagan and the O'Donnell brothers were among the many Scots who came to Deepdale.

North End reached the FA Cup Final again in 1937, when they lost to Sunderland, but in 1938 they reversed the result of the 1922 Final by beating Huddersfield town 1-0, the winning goal came from the first penalty awarded at Wembley, and was scored by George Mutch with the last kick of extra-time!

Sir Tom Finney - 1954 Footballer of the YearAfter the Second World War and until his retirement in 1960 the skill of Tom Finney was the most important aspect of football at Deepdale. His genius and gentlemanly conduct was and still is, and example for all footballers to follow and brought great credit, not just to the maestro, but also to his home town.

The honour of being made Freeman of the Borough and the award of the CBE for services to football was just reward for this footballing legend, sadly North End’s defeat, 3-2 by Albion in the FA Cup Final of 1954, did not result in a cup winners’ medal and another disappointment was in 1953 when the first division championship was lost to Arsenal on a goal average difference of one!

As with so many other league clubs, the decline in the fortunes of North End started with the abolition of the maximum wage and with the concentration of successful clubs within the larger cities where stadiums could be filled by drawing on a relatively small percentage of the population.

You can find more about Sir Tom Finney in our area devoted directly to him, or our official website,

Alan Kelly in trainingNorth End reached Wembley again in 1964 when they lost what is still considered to be a classic Final against West Ham United, the PNE team included a young Howard Kendall, whilst the basis of the Hammers’ side went on two years later to lead England to World Cup glory at the same venue in the summer of ’66.

North End is also proud to be linked with the footballing feats of goalkeeper Alan Kelly who joined the club in 1958 from Drumcondra and, until his enforced retirement, following a shoulder injury sustained in the game against Bristol City on 15th September 1973, gave sterling service, his record speaks for itself.

He was first choice goalkeeper for 13 seasons and holds the club record of 447 league appearances (keeping 126 clean sheets) and 47 caps for Eire.

Nobby Lawton with Bobby Moore before the 1964 FA Cup Final at WembleySir Tom Finney’s retirement at the beginning of this decade marked the end of an era for North End in one sense, yet the next generation of the Lilywhites’ own talent was very much on its way.

As Sir Tom said farewell to the Deepdale crowd in April 1960 with a 2-0 win over Luton Town, the club’s youth team reached the FA Youth Cup Final that very same month. The young Lilywhites fell to a 5-2 aggregate defeat by Chelsea, but the spine of that side would go on to form the backbone of the first team for years to come.

However, the immediate aftermath of Sir Tom’s retirement was a difficult time for PNE. In their first season without him, North End were relegated to the second division, failing to return to the top flight since.

Manager of the past five years, Cliff Britton, was replaced by Jimmy Milne towards the end of that season.
After a few mid-table finishes, some of that FA Youth Cup side began to make their mark on team. Peter Thompson was a notable graduate before he left for Liverpool in 1963, while Alan Spavin would go on to play over 400 times for the Lilywhites with George Ross, Dave Wilson and Tony Singleton not so far behind in the appearance stakes.

The latter three of those played in an FA Cup Final defeat to West Ham in 1964, only beaten by a 90th minute winner as the Londoners came out 3-2 winners, North End having led twice in the match. Howard Kendall, another academy graduate, also played in the final as a 17-year-old.

Two seasons later, PNE threatened to repeat their FA Cup run, but were harshly eliminated in the quarter-finals by Manchester United. Six months after, Bobby Seith became boss in November 1966 as Milne moved into a directors’ role, with North End enduring a few mid-table finishes and one near miss on relegation in the closing years of the decade.

Bobby Charlton with his teamJust months into the 1970s, the Lilywhites were relegated to the third division for the first time in their history. However, North End found some inspiration in the shape of Alan Ball Senior, the father of his namesake World Cup winning midfielder, who became manager soon after that disappointment of relegation.

He led the side back to the second division at the first attempt, winning the title in his first season. Not only that, but it was Ball’s words which inspired the current Gentry Day tradition, the former midfielder declaring of the club’s travelling support that season: “Preston fans are the best, they are the Gentry.”

Ball ensured survival in the second division in his second campaign, while also blooding striker Alex Bruce for the first time – a man who would make a huge impression with North End over the following decade or so. However, it was left to temporary boss Frank Lord to keep the team up in the following year, with Ball sacked in February 1973 after a disappointing run of results.

His permanent replacement would be World Cup winner, Sir Bobby Charlton. His appointment in the summer of 1973 attracted national interest, but the ex-Manchester United star oversaw a relegation back to the third tier in his first season. However, he not only continued as boss, but picked his boots back up until the March of that following campaign, but even he was unable to inspire a promotion back to the second division, North End finishing ninth as they struggled away from home.

The following season had barely started when Charlton resigned because of the decision to allow then captain John Bird to join Newcastle in exchange for returning striker Bruce. Harry Catterick took over as manager, making steady progress in two seasons as boss, finishing ninth then sixth.

Another World Cup winner in Nobby Stiles then took over at Deepdale – the former defender returning two years after ending his playing career with North End. He continued Catterick’s good work, earning promotion back to the second division in his first season, in part thanks to the strike partnership of Bruce and Mike Elwiss. Stiles then consolidated the team’s position in the second division in the final years of the decade.

The first six years of the 1980s were not a pleasant time for North End. The Lilywhites were relegated twice in that time and there could easily have been a third by the end of it, with the club having to apply for re-election in 1986.

The decade started as it would go on, and the 1980/81 campaign brought relegation back to the third division under Nobby Stiles, with legendary North End midfielder of the 1950s, Tommy Docherty, taking over. However, even he only managed a troubled couple of months in the job as Gordon Lee replaced him in December 1981 following a poor start to the season.

Lee oversaw mid-table finishes in that season and his subsequent only full term in charge before his departure in December 1983, with Alan Kelly taking the reins until the end of an immensely difficult campaign. That 1983/1984 season would have been the club’s last but for some heroic fundraising efforts, with £250,000 successfully raised to save the Lilywhites from ceasing to exist.

The on-pitch troubles continued, though. Kelly lasted little over a year as manager as Tommy Booth took to the Deepdale dugout in February 1985. He was unable to prevent a relegation to the fourth division, and the Lilywhites’ first ever season at that stage of the league pyramid proved to be even worse. Booth stayed in the role until January of the following season with PNE mired in another battle at the bottom, his assistant Brian Kidd then taking the role for around two months, before Jon Clark ended this disastrous season as caretaker manager.

Clark won five of his ten matches in charge, but that wasn’t enough to take North End up the table as they finished second bottom and were forced to apply for re-election. Fortunately, the majority of the voting Football League clubs elected to maintain the Lilywhites’ league status, with relegation to the Conference the dreaded alternative.

John McGrath celebrates promotion in 1987Incidentally, the Play-Offs were introduced in the same season as the plastic pitch was first laid at Deepdale. After the surface was put in place in the summer of 1986, the Lilywhites, managed by the newly-appointed John McGrath, did not need the recently-formed promotion method as they finished second in that 1986/87 campaign. The strike partnership of John Thomas and Gary Brazil proved a devastating one, but good work at the back was equally important as PNE finished the campaign with the league’s best defensive record.

But after McGrath’s men did well to retain their third division status the following season, they fell victim to the Play-Offs for the first time in the next campaign. North End finished sixth in 1988/89, but were beaten by Port Vale in the Play-Off semi-finals, losing 4-2 over two legs.

The Lilywhites couldn’t match that form the following season, as Les Chapman took over from McGrath in February 1990 and the club just avoided relegation with a 19th placed finish. Chapman then helped the club to stay in the third division in his two seasons in charge, but things came to a head once again in the 1992/93 campaign.

Chapman was sacked following his team’s poor start, and after Sam Allardyce oversaw 12 matches in caretaker charge, John Beck was appointed in the December of that season. He couldn’t prevent a relegation back to the fourth division, with North End losing their final five matches of the season.

Ian Bryson scores an overhead kick at WembleyNorth End's first Play-Off Final brought their first trip to Wembley since 1964 for the 1993/94 season, in the old third division under the management of John Beck, who had revitalised interest in the club and brought about a move to take the fans back to the Town End, where they remain to this day.

Torquay United were the opponents for the Play-Off semi-final, with the first match being played at Plainmoor, Torquay winning 2-0. The second round was played on Wednesday 18th May 1994 when memorable scenes were witnessed at Deepdale.

North End went one goal up within the first ten minutes, only to see a two-goal advantage regained by the visitors before half-time, but the sending off of Torquay defender Darren Moore ten minutes before half-time spurred North End on. They scored twice in the second half to take the game to extra-time; Torquay looked like holding out and winning on the away goals rule until Paul Raynor scored with only four minutes let on the clock and so North End were to feature once more at Wembley.

That night the plastic pitch, which has been laid in the summer of 1986 was also taken up after the game, with the majority of the work done by the fans; many of whom still have memories of the game with a piece of the pitch in their house or garden!

The team that played that night were Steve Woods, Andy Fensome, Ryan Kidd, Lee Cartwright, Stuart Hicks, David Moyes, Gareth Ainsworth, Neil Whalley, Paul Raynor, Tony Ellis, Ian Bryson, subs were Greg Challender and Richard Lucas. North End played Martin O’Neill’s Wycombe Wanderers in the Final, but unfortunately lost 4-2 having been 2-1 up at half-time with a spectacular overhead kick goal scored by skipper Bryson not being enough.

Skipper Ian Bryson and manager Gary Peters with the third division trophy in 1996In 1996, however, everything went the way of North End and under the management of Gary Peters the club was promoted as champions of division three. During the championship season, the Sir Tom Finney Stand was opened, named in recognition of the maestro and representing the start of the redevelopment of Deepdale into a stadium for the 21st century.

The Sir Tom Finney Stand is the home of The Greats' Room. The stand seats almpost 8,000 fans and has matchday facilities for spectators on concourses within the stand.

The next stage of the ground redevelopment to be completed was the Bill Shankly Kop, which was formerly the Spion Kop Stand. The work started in December 1997 and was completed in June 1998. This stand now houses a gym and the Heatbeat Charity facility.

On the pitch Peters was building a squad with quality, recruiting Manchester United young trio, Jon Macken, Colin Murdock and Michael Appleton and the likes of Sean Gregan, Michael Jackson and Gary Parkinson, who would become mainstays as the upward curve continued.

Davif Moyes with the second division trophy in 2000After Gary Peters' resignation in January 1998, David Moyes took over as manager and in his first full season in charge he led the club to its highest league finish since the 1980/81 season, only losing out to Gillingham in the Play-Offs. The following season, David went one better as he guided PNE to the second division title, and a place in the first division for the first time in 20 years.

In season 2000/01, Moyes excelled himself once again as he steered the side to a highly impressive fourth position in division one. This meant the Play-Offs once again and, having beaten Birmingham on penalties in one of the most memorable modern day Deepdale games in the semi-final, North End travelled to the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff to face Bolton Wanderers. Although Bolton took a deserved lead in the first half, it was North End who had most of the play in the second period. Despite putting the opposition under substantial pressure, the Lilywhites could not get an equaliser and Bolton ensured victory with two late goals, the 3-0 scoreline an untrue reflection of the game.

The following season was a year of departures, though the club did welcome the spectacular new Alan Kelly Town End, replacing the popular terrace that became so iconic of 'Old Deepdale'.

In October, club chairman Bryan Gray ended a seven year tenure at North End and announced his resignation at the club's AGM. Deputy chairman Derek Shaw took over in the interim.

Nine days in March saw the end of an era at North End as Jon Macken and David Moyes both departed the club. Macken left for Manchester City in a club record £5m deal. while David Moyes moved to Premier League club Everton.

Kelham O'Hanlon took over temporary charge of management matters and despite difficult circumstances guided the club to a creditable eighth position a whisker away from the Play-Offs.

Craig Brown is appointed manager in June 2003The close season saw a wind of change sweep through the Deepdale corridors. The first big change saw former Scotland manager Craig Brown unveiled as new first team manager. Kelham O'Hanlon was rewarded for his good work by retaining his assistant manager's role while former Motherwell boss Billy Davies was brought in as first team coach. The influx of new faces continued as Jamaican international Ricardo Fuller became the first signing of the new era.

In late June, Baxi Partnership finally ended their association with PNE when their remaining shares were bought out by 'Friends of Preston North End' - a new company formed by club chairman Derek Shaw and Steve Jackson, the managing director of New Reg Ltd, the Club's official shirt sponsor.

The 2002/03 season saw Tyrone Mears, Marlon Broomes, Eddie Lewis, Brian O'Neil, Simon Lynch, Jonathan Gould and George Koumantarakis complete the North End revolution, but despite so many players coming in the final placing was slightly disappointing as they finished the season in 12th place.

The disappointment signalled the end for several experienced players, with Iain Anderson, Colin Murdock, Mark Rankine and Tepi Moilanen all leaving before the season kicked off. But despite the changes the fortunes remained the same, finishing in 15th place.

Callum Davidson, Youl Mawene and Gavin Ward all arrived in the summer of 2004 and gave the fans real hope for the new campaign, but things didn't quite go according to plan and with less than a month of the season gone, Craig Brown was relieved of his duties.

In August 2004, Billy Davies was put in temporary charge and four wins in six games earned him the job on a permanent basis, Davies and his new assistant David Kelly were unveiled on September 27th.

The rest as they say is history and Davies led North End to fifth place in the table and a place in the Play-Off Final at Cardiff, but in the end it proved to be a step too far as Bobby Zamora netted the only goal of the game.

Davies and Kelly were rewarded for their success with new and improved contracts in June 2005 and repaid the board's faith by leading North End to the Play-Offs for the second year in succession. However, this time they were knocked out in the semi-final stage by Leeds United.

In June 2006, Billy Davies left his post at Deepdale to become manager of Derby County and he was replaced by Paul Simpson, who signed a three year contract.

David Nugent scores on his England debut against AndorraIn November 2006 Preston North End topped the Championship following the 1-1 draw at home to Coventry. It was the first time the club had topped the second tier of English football since 1951.

David Nugent became the first PNE player since Sir Tom Finney to represent England, when he came on as a substitute in the friendly against Andorra and scored in injury time to help England to a 3-0 win in March 2007. In June, Nugent was sold to Portsmouth for an initial fee of £6m, bringing his short, but exciting Deepdale days to an end.

In the immediate aftermath of Nugent's departure, the Lilywhites struggled for form, and this culminated in the departure of manager Paul Simpson after a 3-0 defeat at Hull City in November 2007. He was replaced by former Everton assistant manager Alan Irvine, who steadily oversaw an upturn in fortunes.

Alan Irvine steered the club to Championship safety, completing the process when Richard Chaplow grabbed a late equaliser at Plymouth to guarantee North End's Championship status. During the summer of 2008 the finishing touches to the new Invincibles Pavilion were put in place and the new stand was officially opened on Saturday August 16th 2008 with PNE's first home Championship clash of the season against Crystal Palace.

Deepdale's new capacity was moved up to 23,404 with more than 1,000 hospitality places and that extra seating proved useful when the Lilywhites drew Liverpool in the FA Cup Third Round. That game broke all records with 23,046 viewing the match inside the ground, the biggest crowd at Deepdale since the early 1970s. The game also saw record gate receipts and a TV viewing audience of 7.3m.

North End made the Play-Offs again at the end of that season, but succumbed to Sheffield United over two legs in the semi-final to miss out on the chance of Premier League football.

In December 2009 Alan Irvine left the club and was succeeded by the son of Sir Alex Ferguson, Darren Ferguson.

Ferguson only lasted 12 months however before being replaced by Phil Brown, but he was unable to keep the Lilywhites in the Championship and they were relegated to League One.

In a scenario very similar to that of Ferguson’s reign, Brown was replaced at Deepdale after 12 months – the same 12 that his predecessor had overseen and Graham Westley arrived with a view to changing the club’s fortunes around.

After a huge squad overhaul in the summer of 2012, Westley was sacked in February 2013 after a disappointing tenure at Deepdale and he was replaced by former Huddersfield Town manager Simon Grayson.

The team celebrate the League One Play-Off Final win at Wembley on 24th May 2015Simon Grayson had an immediate impact on the club and under his guidance, results improved with the Lilywhites securing a respectable mid-table finish by the end of the season.

A rejuvenated North End in the 2013/14 season saw the club finish in the Play-Off places at the end of the last campaign, but Simon Grayson's side ultimately fell short of promotion losing to Rotherham in the Play-Off semi-finals.

It was during this season, that saw Preston North End lose its famous son with the death of Sir Tom Finney on the 14th February 2014.

But the following year a ten-time Play-Off hoodoo was brought to an end. The club had a fantastic season and looked to be heading for automatic promotion. The season came down to the final game, but a loss at Colchester meant it was the Play-Offs once again for the Lilywhites.

Grayson, however, picked his team up and led them to a 4-0 aggregate semi-final over over Chesterfield, and then on 24th May 2015, they were 4-0 victors over Swindon Town under the arch at the home of English football, with a hat-trick from Jermaine Beckford and one from Paul Huntington sealing a Championship return.

North End were soon competitive once back in the second tier, finishing in the top half for the next three campaigns, and they narrowly missed out on the top six by just two points in the 2017/18 season.

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