Former PNE and Liverpool defender Mark Lawrenson claims Saturday’s friendly between the sides is a fitting tribute to the great Bill Shankly.
The ex-defender started his illustrious career at Deepdale, playing over 70 games for the Lilywhites, before he moved to Brighton & Hove Albion and, shortly after, Anfield.
Having felt the effect of ‘Shanks’ during his time with the Reds, and following in the Scots’ footsteps as a defensive minded Lilywhite, ‘Lawro’ believes the Shankly Shield is the perfect way to honour the former player and manager, in the year of his 100th birthday.
“I think it’s great, I think anybody who’d ever come into contact with him will know what a great football man he was,” Mark told PNE.Com.
“He did an awful lot for Preston obviously but probably even more so for Liverpool and if you think about the Liverpool successes from the 60s when he was there through to present day, a lot was built on the foundation he set at the Club.
“He had a particular vision for the Club where he wanted it to be, he was very much at the right club at the right time and he was, most definitely, the right man so it’s a very fitting tribute.”
Brendan Rodgers will bring a star-studded squad up the M6 on Saturday and while the ‘Lawro’ admits the fixture might hold more meaning to North End, due to Liverpool’s Premier League status, he is certain both sides will use the game as a fitness test.
“It is a big one for Preston because they’re playing against a team that plays two grades of football higher up but from Liverpool’s point of view, and even Preston’s, is that the most important thing is that everyone’s fit and ready,” he said.
However, the BBC pundit did concede the game will have a different feel about it and may well have a more competitive edge, thanks to the relationship between the Clubs.
“I do think it will be much more than a normal friendly because of the connections, which there have always been – not just regards Shankly,” he continued.
A crowd in excess of 17,000 is expected at Deepdale for the visit of the Reds – a massive attendance for a pre-season friendly – and Mark believes the high demand reflects well on both sets of fans.
“I have to say that if they can do 16,000 people for a friendly, three weeks before the season starts, I think that’s great,” he said.
“I think it tells you a lot of things about football, the relationship between the two clubs and Liverpool are still a massive draw.”
And the 56-year-old is confident that relationship will continue beyond Saturday’s fixture, a game he predicts will finish all square: “I think Liverpool will virtually play two teams so let’s go two-two.”
On a personal level, Lawrenson was modest about his recent selection to the Club’s All-time team, voted for by Lilywhites supporters, but admits it’s a fantastic feeling to be recognised by the fans.
“It’s always nice, I only played 70-odd games or something,” he said bashfully.
“I am sure there were better centre backs than me at Preston who played a very long time.
“It’s great because I’m absolutely Preston nuts and I’m honoured but I’m slightly embarrassed as well.”