Kevin Davies was talking fixtures
Kevin Davies was talking fixtures
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I cannot help but think that fixture release day is beginning to run along the same lines as transfer deadline day.

It has its own hashtag on Twitter, the yellow ‘breaking news’ bar on Sky Sports News, not to mention far too much speculation in the build-up.

Sky have yet to draft in a yellow frock-wearing Natalie Sawyer to present the big release, but don’t rule it out in seasons to come.

On Wednesday morning, it was Ray Wilkins and Kevin Davies putting in a right shift in the SSN studio to try and stretch interest in the fixtures beyond the first 20 minutes.

My word, they had to work for their corn, as Aston Villa’s season was picked over in acute detail.

We had the television on silent at LEP Towers and every glance up at the screen brought the sight of Butch and Kev doing what seemed like a week-by-week breakdown of the Premier League games.

By December 28 fixtures, they looked broken men but still had the second half of the campaign ahead of them!

The release of fixtures has been likened to Christmas Day, a burst of excitement early doors and then a whole host of bickering as you realise your team is away in some far flung corner of the country on a Tuesday night in January.

With Preston having been promoted, it was with quite a buzz that I scanned the list of games when they landed here.

After four seasons in League One in which a sense of familiarity had developed with a big cluster of clubs, it was great to cast an eye over the matches for 2015/16.

On paper, could North End have got a tougher home start than Middlesbrough’s visit?

Just a month ago, Boro were 90 minutes away from the Premier League.

They were at Wembley the day after PNE, their fans occupying the same end of the stadium as Preston supporters had done. Had things gone differently on May 24 and 25, the clubs would have been two divisions apart – instead they start on level pegging.

North End then move on to play MK Dons and Rotherham, two games they should travel to with a sense of scoring-settling in their minds.

MK pipped Simon Grayson’s men to automatic promotion at the start of May, although you would argue it was the latter throwing a fine opportunity away.

As for Rotherham, it was the Millers who knocked Preston out of the play-offs last year.

Next is Ipswich at home and then a trip to Hull brings the August games to a conclusion.

Those two are among 17 clubs in the Championship this season to have graced the Premier League previously.

Hull and eight others will have parachute money to soften their fall into the second tier from the cash cow that is the top flight.

Every fixture has an element of attraction about it, even the midweek visit to Bristol City a fortnight into 2016.

If you think that is a bit of a trek, spare a thought for Carlisle who have a Tuesday night visit to Plymouth to look forward to in August.

Two fixtures which will have red rings around them on many Preston fans’ calenders, are the Blackburn clashes.

Rovers come to Deepdale on November 21, with the return at Ewood Park being at the start of April.

It is 14 years since the clubs last met competitively and it should be a lively renewal of a long and traditional rivalry.

The London away days are always popular, with three of them – Brentford, Queens Park Rangers and Fulham – on a Saturday.

It is a shame that Charlton falls on a Tuesday but three out of four is not too bad.

Further afield on the south coast, Brighton away will for many PNE supporters, fall into the ‘new ground’ category.

The Seagulls played at the Withdean Stadium the last time they crossed swords with Preston – those slightly longer in the tooth will remember the Goldstone Ground.

On October 24, the plush Amex Stadium awaits at the end of the long trek to the south coast.

While the fixtures release was a big part of the week at North End, the major news came on Tuesday as Joe Garner and Paul Gallagher put pen to paper on new deals.

Garner signed a three-year contract, while Gallagher dropped the ‘loan ranger’ tag and became a fully-fledged Preston player.

Both pieces of business 
were a continuation of the internal building work being done in readiness for the new season.

Seven players who won promotion are on new deals to add to those who remain on contract from last season.

Now the focus goes on the attempts to bring in new blood and extra quality.