Dave Seddon’s PNE pressview

From left, David Lucas, Lee Ashcroft and Graham Alexander at the Preston North End Former Players' Association Sportsman's Dinner

From left, David Lucas, Lee Ashcroft and Graham Alexander at the Preston North End Former Players' Association Sportsman's Dinner

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Preston North End being back in the Championship has given the fixture list a fresher look after four years in League One.

Friends have been reunited in the shape of playing against clubs with who paths have not crossed for some time.

The visit to leaders Brighton last week saw a first clash with the Seagulls for more than nine years, it also enabling a new ground tick.

Other clubs will appear in opposition after a gap of a few seasons, or already have done in these first three months of the campaign.

But three fixtures in particular stand out, the first of those being this evening’s clash with Bolton at Deepdale.

The other two come with the resumption of action after next month’s international break, Blackburn at home and Fulham away.

Fulham, Blackburn and Bolton, in that order, were promoted from the second tier in May 2001.

North End finished behind in fourth place, with Bolton breaking our hearts in the division’s play-off final at the Millennium Stadium.

The elevation of that trio to the Premier League was the beginning of a long hiatus in terms of games against PNE.

Fifteen seasons later, hostilities resume, North End playing the three within a month of one another.

It is testament to Fulham, Blackburn and Bolton, that they stayed in the top flight for so long after their 2001 promotion.

Fulham only lost their grip on Premier League football at the end of the 2013/14 season.

That moment for Blackburn and Bolton had come two years earlier.

Newly-promoted clubs traditionally find it hard to adjust to the Premier League, yet all three stayed up and pushed on.

Perhaps that underlined just how well PNE did in being so close to them back in 2000/01.

To finish fourth in their first season up from the old Second Division, and get within 90 minutes of back-to-back promotions, was quite an achievement.

It was a season I shared a good chat about with Graham Alexander and David Lucas at the PNE Former Players’ dinner the other week.

Fifteen campaigns on, both still have a huge sense of pride at being part of David Moyes’ side which went on that trip from the third tier through to the brink of the big time.

There was no shortage of quality in that squad, although much of the success was built on a work rate and determination which was second to none.

In the end, they ran out of steam in the Welsh capital, Sam Allardyce’s Bolton too difficult to handle inside the Millenium Stadium.

The clubs meet at 6pm for the first time since that May afternoon.

Will revenge be on Preston’s minds or is time a great healer?

Although the main focus is on the present day task of climbing the table – indeed putting a first home league win on the table – many a Preston supporter will be keeping everything crossed that 2001 can be avenged in a small way.

Those with longer memories will also recall that it was at Wanderers’ former Burden Park home, complete with a Normid supermarket stuck in the corner, where North End were relegated in 1993.

Mind you, that was a rather self-inflicted drop, with five straight defeats after seemingly being safe, condemning them to the bottom division.

Getting back to the present, how PNE could do with a win in front of home supporters.

Solid home form, albeit littered with too many draws, got them into the play-offs two years running.

At the moment, North End find themselves without a league victory at Deepdale this season.

Can they finally change that on the final day of October?

If the last two performances on the road are any indicator, then yes they can.

At Charlton a week last Tuesday, they were powerful from front to back.

It was a slightly different approach against Brighton, more of containment in the first half before opening up in the second, a ploy which came very close to winning the game.

Having won the previous two seasons away at Bristol City and Leyton Orient, who at the time led the division, it was almost a hat-trick of league leaders scalps for Preston.

A point on the south coast was not to be sniffed at though, and should they beat Bolton, it will seem even better.

Tonight’s 6pm start is a new one on me. I cannot recall such a kick-off time before for PNE, although something tells me the abandoned FA Cup tie at Mansfield in 1990 was somewhere around teatime.

Answers on a postcard or on Twitter please.