Over the coming weeks, as part of our celebrations of the 5,000th game, which will be the third game after the resumption, we are chatting to all our former Player of the Year winners.
The award was started by the official supporters club in 1968 and continues to be presented in its current guise as the Official Sir Tom Finney Player of the Year Award, won in 2019 by Ben Davies.
Sadly, some of those – including first winner Alan Kelly Senior – are no longer with us, but it is our intention to try and speak to all the surviving members of this elite group of players, beginning with Tom Rawcliffe’s chat with 1972 winner John McMahon…
John first joined Preston North End back in 1965 as a teenager and went on to play almost 300 times for the club where he spent over a decade.
During that time, he achieved two promotions, was handed the captaincy and also played a testimonial match at Deepdale against local rivals Blackpool to celebrate his time at the club.
Speaking about his journey into the first team, McMahon said: “I left Manchester United where I was a schoolboy and came to North End in ‘65 as an apprentice and I was in digs for probably about three or four years.
“Alan Ball came in as manager and sent me off to Southend on loan. I went there for a month and he was prepared to sell me, but I turned down the move. George Ross then got injured at North End, so the manager put me into the first team at Halifax for my league debut and the rest is history, I’ve never looked back.
“George’s injury was just the chance I needed. People always say if you get a chance you have to take it and I did that year. Going to Southend and then coming back into North End’s first team was great and progressed me as a player.”
His loan move to Southend came in the 1970/71 season and it was in his first full campaign back at Deepdale which he was named the Player of the Year.
After then dropping out of Division Two, McMahon helped PNE back into the second tier in what turned out to be his penultimate season with the Lilywhites.
John said: “In 1971, I only played about 15 games. I’ll always remember when they won promotion against Rotherham, I was playing a reserve game at Huddersfield which was a killer really.
“After promotion in ‘71, they were still trying to build a team and I was back playing with the likes of Ricky Heppolette, Alex Spark and many other young players coming through. I’ve got a photograph of me receiving the award somewhere and I’ve still got the trophy upstairs.
“Then the 1977 team which won promotion was a good blend of youth and experience. I was captain that year, playing with people like Alex Bruce, Ricky Thomson and John Smith. It was a different team completely than in '71 and I think I was probably the eldest in the side.
“I played with some great players and some great characters. The fans were always very good to me. I can’t moan about anything with North End, it will always be part of my life.”
McMahon spoke highly of former team-mates from his time at PNE, the likes of Tony Morley who he still speaks to regularly, but he had special memories to share about one man in particular.
“When I had my testimonial, we used to meet in the boardroom once a month over twelve months and Sir Tom never missed it.
“They had a committee of about eight or nine people planning what you were going to do that year and you knew how busy he was, yet he never missed any meetings.
“That’s how good he was. Unfortunately, I never saw him play but you hear of people going on about him and you get the sense why. He was a brilliant bloke who always had plenty of time for you.”
Look out for more interviews, across a range of formats; with video chats, written pieces and podcasts coming in the next few weeks with the likes of Claude Davis, Michael Jackson, Thorsten Stuckmann, Mark Lawrenson and all the other Player of the Year winners joining us to chat through their PNE careers.