Conroy a fans’ idol with both derby rivals

Conroy (above) once scored in the same game for North End as David Beckham
Conroy (above) once scored in the same game for North End as David Beckham
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Michael Conroy is expecting a feisty blood-and-thunder derby encounter when two of his former clubs go head to head this weekend.

Preston North End make the short trip along the M65 to take on neighbours Burnley at Turf Moor.

Conroy – who lives in Australia now after emigrating there 15 years ago – knows all about the passion which exists between both sets of supporters.

He played for the Clarets for two years in the early 1990s, before being enticed to Deepdale by John Beck in 1993.

The cultured left-footer remains a firm favourite with both sets of fans due to his goalscoring exploits.

He struck more than 20 league goals for Burnley in the 1991/92 season as the club won the Fourth Division championship.

His ability in front of goal also helped North End reach the old Third Division play-off final in 1994, although they were to lose at Wembley against Wycombe, with Conroy on the bench struggling with a groin strain.

The Scottish striker will perhaps be most remembered by PNE fans for the winning goal he scored against arch-rivals Blackpool in the 
FA Cup at Deepdale live on Sky TV.

Conroy also managed to score against the Clarets’ No.1 enemy Blackburn – albeit in a Lancashire Manx Cup 2-1 victory at Turf Moor.

He said: “I always remember the manager at Burnley Frank Casper saying to me that if I scored against Blackburn, even if I never kicked another ball for Burnley, the fans would remember me forever.

“The one I got for Preston against Blackpool in the FA Cup is certainly one of those goals that the fans remember.

“It was a big derby game in the FA Cup live on Sky.

“If I could have picked a goal to score for Preston that was the one.

“That goal still gets recycled over here in Australia on YouTube.

“I think my goalscoring record at Preston stands up. I will never forget the time I came back to Deepdale with Fulham and the reception I got.

“I had to go over to the boys behind the goal at the Town End and give them a clap.

“It nearly brought me to tears because I never saw it coming.”

Conroy left Burnley for Preston in 1993 after receiving a much better contract offer and immediately returned to Turf Moor with PNE – losing 4-1 in the League Cup.

“I think one of my first games for Preston after leaving Burnley was back at Turf Moor in the Carling Cup,” Conroy said.

“We lost 4-1. I seem to remember that we lost the first leg 2-1 at Deepdale and I think Tony Ellis scored.

“But in the second leg we got absolutely smacked and it was not particularly pleasing for me going back to Turf Moor and lose so heavily.”

One of Conroy’s team-mates during his stint at North End was David Beckham, who spent a period on loan at the club as a youngster in 1995.

He also played alongside David Moyes, who became one of his best friends at PNE.

“I once scored in the same game as Beckham – a 3-2 win over Fulham at Deepdale,” he said.