The story of Preston North End’s 5,000 league games is full of milestone moments for the team, but it also includes an absolute truckload of individual moments too.
In our history, so far, we have had just six players who have managed to reach 100 league goals for the club. There has to be a first, and that man was Tommy Roberts!
The First World War badly held up his progress as a footballer, he had been rejected by West Bromwich Albion as a teenager before the war, but some guest appearances for teams during the war highlighted what a good goalscorer he was.
In June 1919, over 100 years ago, PNE were the club that recognised what he could bring to the team. He certainly repaid the club’s faith in him and he immediately settled in to his role as the man to provide the goals.
His record in a lilywhite shirt was incredible. In that first season he ended top scorer with 26 league goals, and in his next four season his league goal tally sequence went, 18, 18, 28, 26 and two more before he left for pastures new! Oh, that we could have someone so prolific in 2020.
All those goals led to two England caps, and Roberts scored in both games, although surprisingly he wasn’t picked again. He was definitely the darling of the Deepdale fans though, but then, in October 1924 the devastating news came through that Roberts was being transferred to, of all people, Burnley.
It was a bitter blow, but it was not to be the end of his days at Deepdale. He stayed at Burnley for just over two years before the North End fans then had another shock, he re-joined North End in July 1926.
Not only that, he carried on where he had left off, by scoring goals, 26 from 30 league games in 1926/27 and then another 13 in 25 games the following year.
The landmark 100th goal for Roberts came in a 3-1 defeat at Newcastle in November 1923. PNE took the lead in that game, after nine minutes, and that was Roberts’s moment. A corner by Alf Quantrill was headed in by the striker to give the Lilywhites a lead, that sadly they couldn’t hold.
Newcastle equalised before half-time, added a second on 70 minutes and then clinched the game with a minute to go. When Roberts returned to Deepdale for his second spell the extra goals he scored included the one that meant he was also the first PNE player to pass 150 league goals, and so far only two other Preston players have managed that feat.
Roberts scored that 150th goal in a 3-3 draw, ironically at home to WBA, the team that had rejected him all those years earlier. It was an amazing match with the home side 3-0 up at one stage.
Roberts’ goal was the first, scoring from George Harrison’s cross. After that both defences showed their frailties and in the end PNE were thankful for their point. It is strange when you read the reports from all these games because at the time none the records I’m recording here are ever mentioned. Surely someone knew about these two Tommy Roberts landmarks?
During the 1920 to 1930 period North End recorded both their 500th win in the league, and their 500th defeat too. Funnily enough, Tommy Roberts played a big part in the 500th win by scoring a hat-trick in a 4-0 win over Notts County on November 26th 1927.
We started the 1929/30 season in ‘fine’ style, losing our first five matches! It was actually the 12th defeat that season, at home to Hull on January 18th 1930, when we were beaten 2-1 to record our 500th defeat.
In the end we lost 18 games and only escaped relegation to division three by two points. The goalkeeper at that time was Des Fawcett, who had been signed from Nelson.
I’m not sure how close any of our earlier goalkeepers, the likes of McBride, Holdcroft, Else or Kelly, came to scoring a goal for North End, but on October 2nd 2004 we had a noticeable first.
It came in the League game at Leicester City when a young Andrew Lonergan hit a long left-foot punt forward. It bounced once over ’keeper, and then once more before going in.
Only one goalkeeper since, so far, has also achieved this feat. He was Scot Iain Turner, and he did it against Notts County on August 27th 2011. For the record the beaten keepers were, Kevin Pressman of Leicester City and Stuart Nelson of County.
There was a goalkeeper who did once get the better of us, he was George Farm of Blackpool. He was injured, came out of goal to play on the wing, and then scored the winner in the match!