Football’s bete noire Joey Barton could have been turning out for Preston North End if things had been different.
In his new autobiography the controversial midfielder reveals the Lilywhites were among the clubs interested in his signature when he was released from Everton’s books as a teenager.
Instead Barton opted for Manchester City and his colourful career was to be launched at the other end of the M60 alongside a former North End manager who made a big impression on the Rangers player.
After being shown the Deepdale door in 1992 Les Chapman eventually ended up at Maine Road and became something of an institution.
He served as kit man for Man City for 17 years and among the many tales of his time in football Barton’s book No Nonsense reveals one hilarious episode from his Preston days which has passed into football folklore.
Chapman - or Chappy as he is affectionately know - was renowned for dressing up in fancy dress and his array of colourful characters.
Barton explains, “Chappy’s best known character is William MacSwift, a wild-eyed, tartan-trewed Scot with wig and tam o’shanter hat.
“MacSwift was developed at Preston where, as the late John McGrath’s right hand man, Chappy would often dress as a punk rocker on away trips. His speciality was leaping unexpectedly out of the bushes, in full costume.
“One day, when he had been promoted to Preston manager, he decided to go a fateful stage further and, after leading the players on a lap of a local park, dropped off the back of the group.
“He dived into the undergrowth, stripped off completely, smeared mud over his body and plaited his hair with twigs.
“Chappy emerged, screaming, only to find his timing was awry. Instead of his first team squad, he was confronted by a pair of senior citizens, innocently walking their Labrador.”
Away from the football world Barton also recalls the time he made the headlines in the Evening Post after crashing a vehicle owned by Man City into a car showroom in Coppull, near Chorley, and fleeing the scene.
The incident happened in January 2003 when he was just starting to make his name in the Manchester City first team.
He recalls, “For once alcohol was not the cause. We swerved to miss an animal, hit a speed hump and lost control because our attention had been distracted.
“Hearing the alarms wailing, and having been showered in glass, we panicked and legged it, intending to argue the car had been stolen.
“The police picked us up trying to make our way home after being alerted by our taxi driver.
“The fact we had not been drinking worked in our favour with the magistrate who dismissed the charge of leaving the scene of an accident. I decided abject apology was the only course of action when I called in to see (Manchester City manager Kevin) Keegan.
“I accepted the bollocking and promised to pay off the repair bill at £150 a week.”
Joey Barton No Nonsense The Autobiography is published by Simon & Schuster priced £20.