The Championship opener this weekend sees the Lilywhites hosting Steve Cooper’s Swansea City at Deepdale.
And to look ahead to the visit of the Swans, former midfielder at both the visitors and Preston North End, Simon Davey, spoke to us from his Atlanta home.
One of Swansea’s youngest ever debutants – whilst still as a schoolboy – the former Barnsley manager is now executive director of the Southern Soccer Academy in the west coast US state of Georgia and it was from there that he reflected on his formative years with his hometown club.
“There were no real Academies in those days,” recalled Simon. “You would sign associate schoolboy forms aged 13, which I did and I was doing well and playing a few games in the reserves as an U16 player and then one day I got the call from the headmaster while I was in class saying Terry Yorath had called the school to ask if I could have the afternoon off, as he was looking to get me involved in the game against Torquay on a Tuesday evening.
“I didn’t own a suit; I had to wear my school blazer and I turned up and didn’t realise I was on the bench! I came on as a sub for Steve Kean and that was the start of my career. I was brought straight back down to earth the next night, because I played for my school team!
“I look back and I played when I was 16 and then also when I was both a first and a second year apprentice. I was getting experience in the first team and back then, when you won the Welsh Cup, you got entered into the European Cup Winners Cup. We played Monaco at Monaco when Arsene Wenger was manager. They had the likes of Djorkaef and George Weah in their team. We met Pele before the game as well.
“The following year we played Panathaniakos in front of 67,000 people in the Olympic Staidum. Those memories are experiences that stand you in good stead when you are playing Rochdale away on a Tuesday night!”
After his playing career, Simon moved into coaching, firstly as head of the Lilywhites’ Academy and then onto Barnsley, eventually becoming first team manager at Oakwell.
So, as a former boss, with the season on our doorstep, what was it like in the build-up to the start of a new season?
“It is great for the six weeks when you don’t have a competitive game!” He joked. “It is a tough period. You have contractual issues to deal with, recruitment to deal with, you also have a pre-season where you have to get them in peak condition for the start of the season.
“You also have a fixture programme when you are building it up with fans looking at results and thinking ‘we’re not going to be good this year’, or are raising their expectations to a new level and it is tough.
“No matter what training session you do or what pre-season game you play, nothing can replicate a league game that you play in a normal season. It is a little bit false, but you have to make everyone ready for the start of the season and keep your fingers crossed you have no injuries.
“By the time you get to the Thursday before you probably don’t have two or three players you wanted to start and you have to change your plans, but 3pm on Saturday comes and you just have to cross your fingers and think ‘there’s nothing more I can do’.”
“Hopefully, you get that early win. If you get that first win, there’s some relief, but also belief that everything you have done was worth it and you can build on that. It is such a tough business and confidence is built off an early win.”
As we kick-off at Deepdale on Saturday afternoon, Simon will be a keen viewer from ‘across the pond’ and he is hoping it is a positive season for both sides: “It is one of those fixtures that every year I look at when the two teams are in the same division.
“They are the first two results I look for. I was born in Swansea and played for Swansea and then I had a long-time career at Preston. I always hedge my bets on the result depending on who I am talking to!
“I can imagine everyone is looking forward to getting the season up and running and it is a great fixture to start with.
“Getting to a Play-Off and just missing out, you get a real drive during the summer period, when you recharge the batteries and say ‘we got this far, we know how close we were and we just have to kick on’.
“You know the standards you have done over the last ten games of the season to get to that level and if you have the same group of players, with the same drive, that is perfect, because you just roll into the next season and hopefully you can kick on.
“It can also have the adverse effect where you peaked towards the end of the season and gave everything you had got and then there’s a change over of players and you have to start afresh.
“Both clubs are in a similar sort of situation and hopefully they can both be vying for a similar sort of position this season.
“It would be great for me, sitting and watching in America seeing both clubs in the Premier League. We get all the games on a Saturday morning and it would be great if I could see both teams playing against each other in the Premier League,” he added.
There’s loads more from Simon in our 15-minute chat with him, as we further look ahead to the Championship campaign and his time at the then Vetch Field home of the Swans. Click on the video at the top of the page to watch.
Saturday’s game is live on iFollow, with Jonathan Breeze joined by Brett Ormerod for full 90 minutes coverage, with four cameras, replays and graphics. On air from 2.50pm at the weekend – click here now to sign up for a match pass for just £10.