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Countdown To 5,000: The Beginning

30 March 2020


Countdown To 5,000: The Beginning

30 March 2020

This season sees our club, Preston North End, become the first EFL team to reach the milestone of playing 5,000 league games.

We have to wait until our 40th game of the campaign to reach our target – meaning it will be the third game after the resumption of the 2019/20 season.

In this series, written by co-author of the PNE historical bible ‘Proud Preston’, the matchday programme, The One And Only, has been exploring landmarks along the way, and feature some of the matches, the characters and wonderful players that have made such an impact with the faithful Deepdale fans.

It all started back on 1st September 1888 when the ‘Football League’ began with the 12 original clubs.

Our very first match was against local rivals Burnley, here at Deepdale. The game was hugely anticipated, and the late arrival of the visitors caused a 50-minute delay to the kick-off time. It was also partly due to the huge crowds making their way to the ground, so many people wanted to be present.

North End already had a reputation as the best team in the land and this season was to prove an unforgettable one.

The first representatives of Preston North End FC to take the field in the Football League were as follows: In goal was James Trainer, the full backs were Bob Howarth and Bob Holmes, whilst the half backs were Sandy Robertson, William Graham and Johnny Graham. The five forwards on view were Jack Gordon, Jimmy Ross, John Goodall, Fred Dewhurst and George Drummond.

The sun shone brightly at the start and it took the home side just two minutes to score the first of nearly 7,500 goals the club has amassed so far. The man who went down in history by scoring the first of those goals was Fred Dewhurst. He was set up by some fine play by both John Goodall and Jimmy Ross.

Within 60 seconds of that goal, PNE scored again, this time through Jack Gordon. The Lilywhites were rampant, and Burnley were struggling to stay in the game. Sandy Robertson and Dewhurst again had further chances as the home side dominated. However, Jack Keenan showed some skilful play to set up Pat Gallocher who pulled a goal back.

It was 2-1 at half-time, with the rest of the first half nip and tuck, with the home side going for a third and Burnley looking for an equaliser.

After the break Burnley began well but North End, and especially Jimmy Ross showed their class. Skipper, Dewhurst, was the architect, setting Ross up for goal numbers three and four, and then Dewhurst himself, playing a perfect captain’s role, made it 5-1.

Burnley did pull another goal back with a minute to go, through Poland, but it was a great start by North End to a campaign that would eventually stay in the annals of the Football League forever. Preston North End, the very first league champions.


The first North Ender to reach 100 appearances in the league was goalkeeper James Trainer. He was ‘of mixed race’, having an Irish father, being born in Wales (Wrexham), and playing his football in England.

Before the league started he was playing with Bolton Wanderers, and on Christmas Day 1886 he came to Deepdale with his team-mates to play against North End. He was shown very little Christmas spirit as PNE trounced the Trotters 12-1! However, someone must have liked what they saw in Trainer because he was to join the Lilywhites in 1887, and became the Deepdale club’s first ever Football League goalkeeper the following year.

Whilst at Bolton he won the first of his 20 caps for Wales and with PNE, after missing two games in that inaugural season, he then went on to be ever-present in goal for North End for the next six seasons.

Who scored the 100th goal for PNE, and how long did it take? Well, amazingly it took just 27 league games to reach that target, an average of 3.7 goals per game.

North End started the second season of league football with that famous 10-0 demolition of Stoke, and in the first five matches scored 27 goals. The 26th goal they scored was their 100th league goal and it came at Bolton in a 6-2 win.

It was the fifth goal of the win, and it was scored by Jack Gordon. His shot hit the bar and bounced down and Sam Thomson put the ball into the net to make sure, but the goal was given to Gordon.

The Scottish winger was a member of the famous ‘Invincibles’ side, and he played a huge part in the history of Preston North End. One of the best wingers we ever had.

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