Kilkenny sets minimum goal for PNE

Midfielder Neil Kilkenny
Midfielder Neil Kilkenny
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Midfield playmaker Neil Kilkenny believes Preston will be back to where they rightly belong with victory on Sunday in the League One play-off final.

North End face Swindon Town at Wembley knowing that a win over the Robins will see them return to the second tier of English football once again.

It’s been a long four years since PNE last played in the division above after suffering relegation during the 2010/11 season.

That disastrous campaign brought to an end a proud run of 11 consecutive seasons in the second tier of English football.

Therelegation also saw the curtain drawn on one of the most successful periods in the club’s modern day history.

On four separate occasions through the early part of the 21st century, PNE almost made it to the Premier League, but fell agonisingly short in the play-offs.

Kilkenny – who has experience of playing in both the Premier League and the Championship with previous clubs Birmingham City and Leeds United – believes another bright new chapter can be opened in the club’s history as long as they overcome this last remaining hurdle on Sunday.

“This club is fantastic,” Kilkenny said. “It’s an absolutely brilliant club.

“Obviously when you look at the stadium, the facilities, the fan base, it’s got a great history – everything is set up for the club to be a success.

“We are looking forward to hopefully trying to get the club back to where it should be.

“I have experience of playing in the Championship – obviously the last two or three seasons I have been in League One.

“The club was in the Championship not that long ago. To get back there will be great for me, it will be great for the players, the fans, everyone really.

“When you look how well some of the teams who got promoted last season from League One did – Wolves and Brentford – this season then I see no reason why this club can’t do something similar.

“We are looking at them and we will be aiming to go and do exactly the same next season if hopefully we can win this game on Sunday.”

Despite spending his formative years Down Under, Australia international Kilkenny is well aware of what Wembley means in the world of football.

He has been lucky enough to have already played at the ‘Home of Football’, although his previous appearance there, in Leeds colours, ended in play-off failure against Doncaster Rovers in 2008.

In fact like North End, Kilkenny has not had much luck in the end-of-season lottery .

He has lost twice at the semi-final stage, including last season for North End against Rotherham United.

“Obviously it was a great experience to play at Wembley,” he said.

“Just to play there was a dream come true.

“But at the same time, the rest of the dream did not turn out the way I wanted it to because we lost the game.

“I don’t want to experience that feeling again.

“Obviously, we’ve had a few disappointments this season – losing in the semi-finals Johnstone Paint Trophy to Walsall.

“And then not going up automatically on the final day of the season when we lost to Colchester.

“Hopefully, myself and the team can make things right on Sunday and I can have an even better memory of playing at Wembley.”