We’ve been busy speaking to former Player of the Year winners since its’ inception in 1968, as we look ahead to the 5,000th game upon resumption and today our focus is our first two-time recipient, Mike Elwiss, who spoke to Tom Rawcliffe…
Former forward Elwiss first joined PNE in 1974 and took the award in his first full season with the club before again taking the trophy in the 1977/78 promotion-winning campaign.
As a Doncaster-born man, he began his career with Doncaster Rovers, but Preston North End has since played a big part in his life.
Mike told PNE.Com: “It’s a great club to be about, the people are so nice. I don’t think you’ll find anybody that will say anything different to that.
“I’ll always remember Bobby Charlton, Nobby Stiles, Franny Burns saying ‘it’s great here’ and I’m thinking, but ‘you’ve come from Manchester United’.
“To achieve the promotion, get two Player of the Year awards and to have captained the side is so, so special. The older you get you look back and it becomes more special to think that you played with your heroes.
“I loved every minute of it; I wouldn’t change anything.”
One of Elwiss’ best memories of his time at Deepdale is the 1978 promotion which certainly wasn’t an orthodox one as their fate lay in the hands of Wrexham who held PNE’s rivals Peterborough to a draw, meaning that North End would reach the Second Division due to a superior goal average.
He played a crucial part in that season alongside his strike partner Alex Bruce, with who he formed a quite formidable partnership.
Mike said: “Mine and Brucey’s was by far the best partnership I’ve had. We just knew what each other was doing.
“We never worked on anything, we just went out there and played what we saw. It was just meant to be and a pleasure playing with him. He was a great finisher, very strong on the ball.
“It’s a funny way to win promotion when you’re just sitting waiting to see what’s going to happen. It was exhausting not doing anything, just waiting and waiting, wondering if you’re going to get there and then yes, we were there.
“We’d worked hard all season, we’d played well. It was just good fun playing there, all the players got on well, training was fun and going in each day was great. It was a good laugh.”
Prior to that success, his move from Doncaster Rovers saw Elwiss jump two divisions at the time which is a big step for any player, but he got off to a flying start as he scored twice on his debut.
Mike recalled: “I was in the Tickled Trout the night before my debut. I hardly slept a wink all night and then I think I was up about four o’clock just wandering around the bedroom.
“You just want to get going and on the pitch. Once you get on you’re fine but it’s just going over everything in your head, how I’m going to get on, if I’m going to do alright.
“Fortunately, I couldn’t have got off to a better start really.”
Unfortunately for Mike, recurring problems with injuries meant that he was forced to hang his boots up early.
He first suffered the injury during his time with Crystal Palace and, as he looked to regain his fitness, he made a brief return to Deepdale in 1980.
“It was everything: cartilage, radial ligament, cruciate ligament. All that was smashed up.
“I made a number of comebacks after loads of operations but I just couldn’t compete when I came back which is very sad and something which I’ve never got over really because there was always so much more that I could have achieved.
“I couldn’t compete like I wanted to. I couldn’t get involved in the thick of it where it mattered and I knew that deep down I wasn’t the same and I couldn’t achieve what I had done before unfortunately.
“It was an easy decision to come back to Deepdale but at the same time I wasn’t any good.”
Check out all the interviews with our Player of the Year winners, including the likes of Andrew Lonergan, Claude Davis and Mark Lawrenson, by clicking here.