Dave Seddon's PNE Press View
The business end of the season is about to kick-off.
I do love that phrase, in fact it should be officially recognised in a similar way to how transfer-deadline day is – maybe by the wearing of a brightly coloured tie?
Sky Sports News could wish us a ‘happy business end’ over the weekend, Jim White and Natalie Sawyer anchoring a special show to mark the occasion.
Actually, scrub Jim White from that plan, Natalie on her own would suffice.
Being a bit more serious, the resumption in domestic action in the Championship and Premier League after the usual dull international break, is the natural way to slip into the business end.
Batteries recharged, minds and bodies rested, the final push is here.
Preston North End have eight games to go, starting with Nottingham Forest’s visit to Deepdale.
The direction in which their campaign goes will be decided over the next five weeks.
Four home games, four away, a big effort needed to turn ninth place into sixth.
It looks a tough ask for them to get the better of three clubs above them but is not mission impossible.
The odds are that they will fall short, a poll of North End fans on the on the Post’s website seeing 41%predict an eighth-place finish.
That is in no way a gloomy outlook, just a realistic look at the job ahead.
I am sure that 41% will be urging PNE on to try and achieve better but with the safety blanket of not having got their hopes too far up.
Teams have made late runs into the play-offs all through the history of them, so there is some hope.
Remember in 2009 when North End squeezed into sixth place on the last day by a single goal at the expense of Cardiff City?
A defeat to Blackpool three weeks earlier on the back of a couple of draws, seemed to have kiboshed any play-off hopes.
Four wins in a row, one of them a 6-0 victory over Cardiff – a fortune swinger if ever there was one – saw them defy the odds.
It is difficult to compare teams from different eras but how do you rate the class of 2017 with the 2009 version?
Would you put your faith in Jones, St Ledger, Parkin and McKenna more than Clarke, Pearson, McGeady and Barkhuzien?
Both have their strengths and weaknesses, the 2009 side probably more solid but lacking the flair of what we have seen in recent weeks from the current team.
What I have enjoyed about this season is the pace in the Lilywhites side.
More and more pace has been introduced over the course of the campaign.
It was Callum Robinson and Daniel Johnson who were probably the quickest two over the ground when the season started.
Aiden McGeady joined at the end of August, with Daryl Horgan and Tom Barkhuizen arriving in January.
There are others who are no slouches, for example Greg Cunningham, Jordan Hugill and Marnick Vermijl.
The injection of pace in my mind has made such a big difference and allowed North End to change approach.
Whether that will give them the legs to make a late successful run into the top six, we will see.
I mentioned Horgan in that speedy pack and how good it was to see him and team-mate Andy Boyle win their first Republic of Ireland caps on Tuesday night.
Their inclusion in the Irish squad, together with that of McGeady, helped make the international break bearable.
The fortnight gap in the fixture list – this the fourth of the season – is a long one for journalists covering clubs.
So thank goodness for McGeady playing a part in the World Cup qualifier against Wales, then Horgan and Boyle’s debuts in the friendly against Iceland.
The fact McGeady played 72 minutes of that game was almost forgotten among the excitement of the other two appearing.
One story generated on this side of the water, rather than over in Dublin, this week was the announcement from North End that they are to trial a smoking area outside Deepdale during half-time of the Forest game.
Reactions have varied and as a non-smoker, it had never crossed my mind as being a necessity.
But I can see the reasons for North End deciding to give this a go.
While Deepdale is a no-smoking venue, there are those who ignore the rules by having a crafty fag in the toilets cubicles at half-time.
Moving them outside will create a safer environment and allow the loos to be used for what they were built for.
I read complaints that a smoking area may encourage children to take up the habit.
But surely seeing mum or dad light-up at the ground is no different to what they see at home?
I don’t think this trial is going to see smokers flocking back to Deepdale, however it is clearly an issue which has been raised and responded to.
It will be interesting to see how many supporters take advantage of the facility.