Cod squad’s PNE links run deep

Jon Parkin pulled on the shirt of both Preston and Fleetwood and is now with Conference outfit Forest Green Rovers
Jon Parkin pulled on the shirt of both Preston and Fleetwood and is now with Conference outfit Forest Green Rovers
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Preston North End and Fleetwood might only be meeting for the first time competitively this weekend but the links between the two clubs are far more plentiful.

A number of players have worn the colours of both in recent seasons – Sean Gregan, Jon Parkin, Paul McKenna, Iain Hume, Jamie Proctor, Youl Mawene, David Lucas and Conor McLaughlin, to name but eight.

Parkin netted 31 goals for PNE in a two-and-a-half-year stay, including a memorable hat-trick in the 6-4 victory over Leeds in September 2010.

Later he heaved his burly figure along the Cod Army’s front line, netting 23 goals in two seasons.

‘The Beast’ now plays for Forest Green in the Conference and has knocked in six goals for the Gloucestershire outfit.

Proctor and McLaughlin are the two players in the current Cod squad to have previously played for PNE.

But the major link is in the technical area in the shape of Fleetwood manager Graham Alexander, a huge favourite in his two stays at Deepdale.

Alexander will have other ex-North Enders by his side on Saturday, namely Lucas, Mawene, Chris Lucketti and Barry Nicholson.

He is keen to take the attention away from his return to Preston, preferring to focus on the job which is in front of the players on the pitch.

Said Alexander: “I spent 10 years there on and off over my two spells as a player and coach and so forth. I had a fantastic time and so did my other staff members – we all look back fondly on it.

“But we are professionals who want to win every game, we are competitive and I’m always one for thinking football is about the team and players.

“I know that there is a connection with Preston and I’m not trying to hide it or bury it in any way because it was a fantastic time.

“But I want to keep focused on what is important, and what is important on Saturday is our team going there to compete with a very good team at this level.

“I will not speak to them about going back or anything like that.

“Every week you have a point to prove as a player or a manager.

“I live in Preston and have been there 15 years. I know my connection. I’m not going to deny there is a connection.

“I’m proud of the time I had at Preston. What got me connected with the club and supporters was how competitive I was.

“When I went back with Burnley as a player I had no second thoughts about trying to beat Preston.

“That is what you have to do as a professional – I’m not going there for a round of applause or a little parade.

“We know their quality, they are massive club at this level who are striving to get into the Championship – that has been the aim since they got relegated.”