Ex-PNE boss is still a happy Chappy

Les Chapman started out at Oldham but was a key figure for PNE
Les Chapman started out at Oldham but was a key figure for PNE
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Plenty of players have pulled on the shirts of both Preston North End and Saturday’s opponents Oldham during their careers.

The path from Deepdale to Boundary Park and vice-versa is a well-worn one.

But perhaps the most colourful character with a link to both PNE and the Latics is Les Chapman.

It was with Oldham who Royton-born Chapman kicked-off a 48-year love affair with football.

He turned his back on a career in accountancy to turn professional with them at the age of 18.

The midfielder moved on to join Huddersfield but after five seasons in Yorkshire, returned across the Pennines to re-join Oldham.

Between 1974 and 1978 he played 263 games for them before trying his luck in the United States with San Jose Earthquakes. Chapman landed on PNE’s doorstep in the summer of 1986 as assistant manager to John McGrath.

That was the start of a 
six-year association with North End which saw him in the roles of player, coach and later manager.

In his first season, he combined his No.2 duties to McGrath with that of being a regular in the Lilywhites’ midfield.

He might have been in his late thirties by then but he was to prove a vital cog in the works as Preston won promotion from the old Fourth Division just 12 months after being forced to apply for re-election.

Chapman scored one goal that season but how important that proved.

It came in the 2-1 victory over Orient at Brisbane Road and was the goal which clinched them promotion in front of 2,500 jubilant PNE supporters.

In a post-match interview, a phrase Chapman used to describe his emotions was later to become the title of a popular North End fanzine.

A few years later Chapman recalled: “I did an interview with the Evening Post after the Orient game and when I said I felt 53 Miles West of Venus – the reporter looked a bit shocked.

“It was a track from an album by the B52s, an American group.

“That was a song I loved and when I play it today, I think of that season and all the emotion.

“A couple of years later, a group of North End fans published a fanzine with the same title and that made me proud.

“It was a memorable time – probably the most enjoyable few months I ever had in football.”

The following season, Chapman was still pulling on the boots and assisting McGrath as North End settled into life in the Old Third Division and reached the northern area final of the Freight Rover trophy, only to miss out on a trip to Wembley after being beaten by Burnley over two legs.

The season after, North End got to the play-offs for the first time, losing 4-2 on aggregate to Port Vale in the semi-finals.

Chapman became PNE manager in early 1990, taking over from McGrath as the side struggled for results.

He was in the hot-seat for two-and-a-half years in what was a difficult financial period for the club. 
North End called time on his spell in charge in September 1992, with Sam Allardyce put in caretaker charge before the job was given to John Beck.

Chapman’s next job was as reserve team 
coach at Manchester City, and then after a brief stint on Huddersfield Town’s coaching staff, he returned to City as their kitman in 
1997.

It was this summer, at the age of 65, that he retired from that job.

But he has stayed on the City payroll in their media department, having become a much-loved figure in his two decades there.

Looking back recently on his time as North End manager, Chapman said: “They sacked me – but the timing was great because I went to City.”