There was a silver lining for self-confessed North End nut Neil Crowe when his beloved Preston lost to Manchester United in the FA Cup.
When the Bamber Bridge manager is not in the dugout at the Sir Tom Finney Stadium, he likes nothing more than heading down to Deepdale to watch the Lilywhites.
Losing to the Red Devils 3-1 a week last Monday was a big disappointment for him but at least the occasion resulted in another major coup for Bamber Bridge.
Unknown to Crowe at the time, but as North End battled with United, his star player former PNE midfielder Paul McKenna was busy working on clinching Brig’s next major signing.
Invited to the match as a guest of Preston, McKenna found himself watching the game beside his ex-team-mate Jon Macken.
The pair starred together at Deepdale in the late 1990s and the early part of this century, helping David Moyes’ team to lift the old Second Division title in 2000.
Macken scored 74 goals in more than 200 appearances for Preston before signing for Premier League giants Manchester City in 2002.
He went on to enjoy spells with a number of other clubs including Crystal Palace, Derby County, Barnsley and Walsall, but has not played competitively since being released by Stockport County in 2013.
Now 37, Macken was persuaded to make a return to the game by McKenna and has joined for Brig.
He signed on the dotted line on Tuesday ahead of the team’s NPL First Division North 4-1 victory over Ossett Town at the Sir Tom Finney Stadium.
“Jon was sat with Paul at the United game,” Crowe said.
“They got chatting and Jon showed an interest in wanting to start playing again. Paul said to him. ‘Why don’t you come down to Bamber Bridge – there’s a good group of players and a good set of lads?’.
“I then spoke to Jon over the weekend and he came down and signed before the game on Tuesday night.”
Macken is expected to make his debut tomorrow at high-flying Darlington 1883, who are currently in second spot.
“Fingers crossed, he will be right for his debut tomorrow.
“He’s been playing a bit of football with his mates. He’s kept ticking over and has looked after himself.”
With Brig in sixth spot, the match tomorrow – on its own merits – is a real six-pointer but there is extra spice to the game as former North End captain Sean Gregan is on the Quakers’ coaching staff.
Gregan played in the same PNE teams as McKenna and Macken and is bound to be vocal in the dugout tomorrow as the match gets under way.
“There’s extra spice to the game,” Crowe said.
“I think they all still talk to each other and they are all looking forward to it tomorrow.”
It is doubtful in the history of Brig that they have ever had a £5m player in their line-up and Crowe admits it is a huge bonus to bring somebody of the calibre of Macken on board.
“It’s a bit like when Paul McKenna came into the side, it’s a massive boost for the club, for the players and for us.
“At the end of the day, he’s an PNE legend and former Premier League footballer.
“We’ve had ex-North End players play for us in the past but none as big as Paul McKenna or Jon Macken
“They are both very down to earth and just want to play football.”