PNE fans’ panellist John Roper’s verdict on 2015/16 season

Paul Gallagher (above) stood out for PNE

Paul Gallagher (above) stood out for PNE

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When Preston North End were promoted a year ago, we were favourites to come down.

So I guess everyone’s first thoughts were to finish 21st in the league and consolidate our Championship position.

However, North End – under Simon Grayson’s astute leadership – did much better than that and we actually finished 11th, with a hugely respectable 62 points – and all this after a poor start.

I suppose the problem with finishing so high in your first season back is that people start the what only analysis.

The facts are that Preston won more games away that they did at home (eight against seven) and we only lost eight away (Hull lost 10 and finished fourth...but they did win 15 at home).

On the goalscoring front, it was poor only scoring 45 – but that was countered exactly by only conceding the same number.

It really is difficult to be critical of the performance overall and if we had Jermaine Beckford fit all season then who knows where we might have ended up?

We had a decent run in the League Cup, beating Crewe and Premier League Watford, only to go out on penalties to another Premier League side Bournemouth.

However, the FA Cup run lasted just one round with a poor display and defeat at Peterborough.

With relative success comes expectation and I’ve already heard fans saying we should be in the play-offs next year.

I am sure that the powers that be at Deepdale will be doing everything in their power to ensure that we make the strongest of challenges.

But it needs investment, shrewd management and a bit of luck and for those that say it can’t be done, well I refer them to Turf Moor.

The crowds at Deepdale held up well with more than 13,000 average in our first season back not bad at all, and a travelling support of more than 1,475 on average at every away game.

Thanks must also go to those that left Deepdale at the end of the season, particularly Neil Kilkenny who played a big part the previous season in getting North End promoted.

And thanks too go to Chris Kirkland, Kyel Reid, Andy Little, Jack Ryan, Nick Anderton and Josh Heaton.

We should also thank the loan players, some of whom we may see again in the not-too-distant future.

From a personal perspective I would take Adam Reach, Callum Robinson and Marnick Vermijl.

So that’s about it for 2015-16, a year of excellent progress and consolidation in a competitive – but quite tight – Championship.

The highlight for me was the 3-0 win at Charlton on which the season turned, and my personal player of the year was Paul Gallagher.

Well done to all the staff because we certainly surprised a few and I am sure it will be August very soon and, hopefully, we will give it an 
even better go next time.

It’s great to be a top-half Championship club again.