I read with interest an online debate among Preston supporters about their view of next week’s derby clash with Blackburn Rovers.
Some see it as the stand-out game in the fixture list, others regard it as just another game.
Geographically, Rovers are PNE’s nearest neighbours and historically, is a fixture which can be traced back to the first season of the Football League’s existence.
Next Saturday’s game will be the 98th competitive meeting between the clubs.
It will be the first for more than 14 years, the last one at Deepdale in May 2001 seeing Rovers win 1-0 to clinch a return to the Premier League.
They were finally reunited this season and it is a fair bet that a bumper attendance will be there to see hostilities resumed.
Concerning the debate on how this derby measures up, those North End fans living in South Ribble and Chorley might well see it as the big one.
Rovers have their fair share of fans in those areas which raises the heat somewhat.
A different viewpoint is that PNE v Blackpool and Blackburn v Burnley are now top of the tree respectively, for the two clubs.
I don’t know if it is a case of absence making the heart grow fonder, but personally I see North End v Rovers as right up there in terms of a derby.
For myself, it is on the same level as Preston’s other meetings within the county borders.
Games against Rovers, Blackpool and Burnley are the genuine Lancashire derbies.
Beyond that, games against Bolton, Wigan and Bury for example, are just quick to get to rather than carrying local bragging rights.
At least no one has tried to invent a name for this derby.
The media loves to put a tag to particular games, which frankly are not needed.
Perhaps the daftest was Sky Sports describing Portsmouth’s clash with Plymouth as the ‘Dockland Derby’.
They might both be next to the sea and have naval bases but they are 170 miles apart!
Back to all things Lancashire, the two games against Rovers in the 1978/79 season, really stood out to me as a youngster.
New to the Second Division, North End beat Blackburn 4-1 at Deepdale on a Tuesday night in August 1978.
Alex Bruce scored twice, with Ricky Thomson and Steve Doyle also on target.
The return at Ewood Park later in the season, saw Bruce score the winner with a belter from outside the box.
Highlights from that game were shown on Granada TV’s Kick-Off programme the next day and Bruce’s goal featured on the credits for the rest of the season.
A decade later, a trip to Ewood Park I remember with much fondness was a game in the Manx Cup.
North End won 3-2, Mark Patterson sliding in at the back post to score the winner in front of the travelling fans at the Darwen End.
Patterson had joined PNE from Rovers that summer and didn’t hold back in his celebrations.
More recently, visits to Ewood have been more painful for Preston.
There was a 6-0 hammering in the League Cup in 1997, a 1-0 win in the second leg being of scant consolation.
Then in January 2001, North End lost 3-2 in the league having been 3-0 down inside 19 minutes.
Rovers’ 1-0 win at Deepdale later in the season – the game in which a young Michael Keane came on as substitute wearing a shirt several sizes too big for him – was the cease in hostilities.
Save the few miles between Deepdale and Ewood, there is little to separate Preston and Blackburn.
They sit level on points in the table, with identical records of three wins, eight draws and five defeats.
Rovers are the place higher thanks to a goal difference which is two better than that of PNE.
Whether something gives between them on the pitch, we will see next week.
There will be some tough selection options for Simon Grayson to mull over in the coming week.
Greg Cunningham, Tom Clarke and John Welsh will be back in contention after injury and suspension.
Cunningham played in five of the six games in which PNE have kept a clean sheet, a thigh strain sidelining him against Queens Park Rangers.
Does skipper Clarke have to wait his turn to get back in, his team-mates having defended admirably without him?
Will Welsh’s tenacity be needed in the heat of a derby battle, or are Preston best served with Paul Gallagher, Daniel Johnson and Alan Browne in the engine room?