My relief – PNE captain

John Welsh
John Welsh
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Preston North End skipper John Welsh has spoken of his relief at being released from police bail in relation to spot-fixing allegations.

The midfielder was among five PNE players and a former player who were arrested in April over claims they were deliberately booked in games.

A week ago, the six were told that they were no longer subject to bail or any form of formal arrest procedure.

Welsh, 30, who will be in the squad to face Leicester City at Deepdale tomorrow (3pm), hopes that is now the end of the matter.

And he has thanked the PNE staff and fans for their loyalty and support during a ‘horrible four months’.

His arrest, together with that of Bailey Wright, Keith Keane, David Buchanan, Ben Davies and Graham Cummins – who has since left PNE at the end of his contract – received widespread coverage in the media.

Welsh told the Evening Post: “I have felt a lot of relief obviously since last week.

“When everything first came out, I was going round thinking that people had already found me guilty because it had been in the papers.

“I felt I was being judged everywhere I went, even off the pitch – at my kids’ school, at their football, even just going shopping.

“You could see people looking because your face had been in the papers which was not nice.

“I like to pride myself on being a hard-working player who gives his all for this club.

“When something puts that in jeopardy, I don’t like it.

“To be arrested at my home in front of my two kids and wife wasn’t nice.

“I knew I had nothing to do with it, no involvement in what was being alleged.

“It has been a horrible four months with this hanging over us all.

“What has given me a lot of pride is the backing the club gave us from the word go.

“Peter Ridsdale has been brilliant, so have the fans, the players, the manager.

“The day we came back in we didn’t have to say anything to the other lads, the banter was there and it was back to normal.

“I won’t forget the loyalty which the club have shown me and the lads.

“They obviously asked the question of whether we were involved, and as soon as we said that we weren’t, they backed us.

“It would have been easy for the gaffer to leave us out, but for the next game at Bristol City he put a lot of us in the team.

“Before that game there was another article in one of the papers with pictures of us.

“The gaffer asked us if we were alright to play, we said we were fine, and that was it.”

Welsh says that his arrest did not distract him in terms of playing football – being out on the pitch meant he had something to focus on.

“Once the whistle went at Bristol City, it was back to business and my head was on the game,” said Welsh.

“Before that game I was thinking about things a little bit, but overall I dealt with it quite well.

“I was more concerned about my family, worrying about the kids having seen me being handcuffed and taken out of the house.

“Football took my mind off it and I got on with my job of playing for this club.

“What happened last week was like a big weight being lifted off your shoulders.

“We had an inkling on the Thursday that all this was going on, then the club released a statement last Friday.

“I don’t know if they are still investigating, but fingers crossed that is it now and we can move forward.”

Tomorrow’s clash with Leicester is the final friendly game for North End ahead of the start of the season.

Welsh said: “It will be another tough game against very good opposition.

“In the friendlies we have been picking up some good results. We’ve only lost against Liverpool and even in that we could have got more from it.”