In our next chat with a former Player of the Year winner, we speak to the man who collected the 1977 trophy.
We are chatting to as many living recipients of the now named Official Sir Tom Finney Player of the Year Award as possible in the run up to the 5,000th game – the third match upon resumption.
And in this latest interview, Tom Rawcliffe speaks to Mark Lawrenson about picking up the trophy as a young player in 1977…
As a Preston-born man and PNE supporter from a young age, it was always Lawro’s ambition to go on and play for his boyhood club.
Lawrenson, whose dad Tommy also played for the Lilywhites, featured for North End on 73 different occasions and, for him, that was a dream come true.
Lawro told PNE.Com: “I was just happy playing because that’s all I ever wanted to do. The fact that I’d followed my dad was just perfect for me, it was like heaven. I wouldn’t have even been bothered if they weren’t paying me, I just wanted to play.
“When I made my debut for Preston I just thought I’d made it, obviously the Liverpool thing is massive but Preston was the best because that’s all I’d ever wanted to do. It’s my team.
“It’s the first result that I always look for and if I’m working when they’re playing I’ll be getting texts saying they’re 1-0 up or they’re this or they’re that. I just love the football club.”
The defender, who went on to play for the Republic of Ireland 39 times partly thanks to the involvement of Alan Kelly Senior, joined the Lilywhites as just a 17-year-old and his story of signing is quite a unique one.
Lawro said: “It was one of the only cases ever where a football manager rang up the headmaster of a college, in my case Preston Catholic College, who was a priest and asked permission for me to leave.
“I was in the middle of taking my A-Levels and the club said ‘you really need to come now otherwise you’re going to miss the boat’ so they made the phone call to Father Ren who gave me permission to go and play. They also asked my mother’s permission which was easy enough because of my step-father being on the PNE board.”
The season which Lawrenson was awarded the title of Player of the Year saw PNE, managed by Harry Catterick, finish sixth in the Third Division just five points below the promotion places.
“It’s funny because I wouldn’t have remembered that we came sixth, that’s completely passed me by. I just had a suspicion that we were in the middle of the league.
“The great thing for me with the manager Harry Catterick was that when he came, I wasn’t in the first team. On his first day in charge as manager I was playing for the reserves and we had a game where I tweaked my knee ligament after about 25 minutes so obviously had to come off.
“When the game was going on I was on the treatment table getting ice on it. Harry came down, asked for my name and he said when ‘you’re fit you’ll be in the first team’ so that was nice.”
Lawro still manages to get to Deepdale when he gets the opportunity and hopes that, if and when the current season continues, PNE can hold on to a Play-Off spot.
He said: “We’re in a fabulous position, but obviously at the moment we don’t know what the outcome’s going to be.
“They have to finish the league, whether it’s to the detriment of the start of next season or not, it may have to be.
“Getting something like football back up and running obviously will say two things. Firstly, that the country is improving in terms of the virus and also just gives people who are all sat in their houses something to look forward to.
“The great thing about watching our team is that we bat above our average. We never give less than one hundred per cent and that’s all you can ask for. If you’ve got a season ticket I think you definitely get value for money for it.”
Coming up this week we have more of our Player of the Year winners with Andrew Lonergan, Mike Elwiss and Tepi Moilanen all set to feature, plus don't forget to check out the ones already online, including Claude Davis' interview from his home in Orlando.