Former Preston North End defender Mark Lawrenson has an extra interest in Wednesday’s Carabao Cup tie as PNE go head-to-head against another of his former sides.
Brighton and Hove Albion are the visitors to Deepdale and it was the Seagulls who Lawro left North End for back in 1977.
Ahead of the third round tie, we caught up with the former Republic of Ireland international to gather his thoughts.
Lawro said: “Brighton had a great win at the weekend at Newcastle, that was a result you would have predicted and I think generally with them they’ve improved under their new manager.
“They like to play out from the back. In terms of Brighton this season with the Premier League, it will just be a case of who’s going to score the goals which sounds a bit rich after they’ve just won 3-0 at Newcastle but that would be their major problem.
“They’re all set up and the interesting thing from my point of view there is that Tony Bloom who owns the football club, his grandad was the vice chairman when I signed back in 1977.
“The backstory of it all was that Liverpool had come in for me in the January before I moved to Brighton in the summer and they bid £70,000 and Preston said ‘we want £100,000’, so Liverpool said ‘he’s obviously not worth that’ so I ended up going to Brighton in the following summer and we had really good times.
“The first year we missed out on promotion by goal average as it would be then, and then the second year we got in Division One which of course everybody knows now it’s level with the Premier League.
“I was just allowed to blossom, but the strange thing for me was we played a fair few games against North End. I remember my first time I went back we played on an absolutely bone-hard frozen pitch and of course in those days you just played and we got done 1-0.
“I think Alex Bruce scored a goal but we returned the favour later in the season cause we beat North End by five from memory. It was a stepping stone for me, I was well aware I’d played loads of games for Preston consecutively and I knew of other interests from other teams and when Brighton came in I just thought ‘you know what, they look like they’re going to go places’ and it was a slight gamble but it worked.”
The Lilywhites head into Wednesday evening’s game following a terrific away win against Derby County in the second round as well as a positive performance in a 2-2 draw at Norwich City, leaving Alex Neil with some tough decisions regarding team selection.
Mark added: “Everybody probably thinks they should be in the team and might be knocking on his door which is a good problem for the manager to have.
“If you’re a supporter and you watch our team play, especially the home games, we are very, very, very competitive.
“We don’t roll over and have our tummies tickled by anybody. We’re strong, we’ve got lots of resolve and if you’re a supporter that’s all you want.
“You can forgive a little bit of a lack of quality but we are there for it in abundance and we can change the team on occasions and there’s very little difference. On occasions when the teams change our performances are even better.
“This is going to be a strange season this year with no crowds and we know that some teams in the Championship, quite a few are very close to the bone in terms of money and wages etc, so who knows.
“I think part of the problem last season going into lockdown sixth raised our expectations. Thinking we’ve only a few games to go, if we come back and play like we’re playing we’ve got a good chance of getting into the Play-Offs.
“Unfortunately it wasn’t to be but we still had a really good season. The manager’s done a really good job and we’re always on the front foot so you can’t really ask for any more than that to be honest with you.”
Both sides go into the game knowing that there is a home tie against either Manchester United or Luton Town at stake, and Lawro thinks that will benefit PNE in their approach to Wednesday’s 7.00pm kick-off.
“I think it definitely benefits us because Brighton play Man United on a far more regular basis than we do, so definitely us.
“If you think about that for our players, well it wasn’t too long that we played Man United in the cup at home, but it’s a massive carrot for us.
“It is different because obviously there’s no supporters and we know football’s completely different, but it’s still Manchester United and there will be a massive media spotlight, probably more on us than Manchester United and I think people know United haven’t made a particularly good start to the season at home against Crystal Palace so who knows.
“It’s absolutely all about confidence. If you play against a strong Premier League team like Brighton and turn them over it makes the dressing room a completely different place and the other thing is when you play these Premier League teams, they might change 11 players.
“I would guarantee those 11 players have never played together so that’s a real incentive for us, if we can get these teams on the back foot because they’re not used to each other in the way that they play.
“That could possibly be our big chance. It’s the feel-good factor of all the supporters, it’s everything about it. Then you’re looking forward to a tie against one of the biggest teams in world football, Manchester United.”