Dave Seddon's pressview
At 5pm last Saturday, it was hard to envisage a satisfactory conclusion to the extraordinary scenes just witnessed at Hillsborough.
Jermaine Beckford and Eoin Doyle had beat an early retreat to the away dressing room, sent-off for pushing and shoving one another in a scene straight out of the playground.
It had all boiled down to one pass, however it was enough to catapult Preston into the headlines country-wide and indeed, well beyond these shores – even Fox News in America was introducing Championship football to its audience.
Within 48 hours, North End were back in the headlines for the right reasons.
Their response to the red cards was a positive one and was duly received positively.
Fines for the battling players had been expected as a minimum, but for the money to be used to refund fans was a measure which went a long way to repairing the damage.
It was a tidy sum needed to cover the refunds, with the cost of an adult ticket in the Sheffield Wednesday away end being £33.
There were those who paid concessions prices in among the 801, but we are probably talking in excess of £20,000 to have reimbursed everyone.
I am sure the Beckford and Doyle families won’t be going without this Christmas, however there will be a sizeable sum missing from the two wage slips.
North End, in my opinion, handled the saga very well from the beginning.
Simon Grayson faced the media in the immediate aftermath, no doubt after a few sharp intakes of breath to compose himself.
His Owls counterpart Carlos Carvalhal had been in the press room before him, delivering a straight bat of which Chris Tavare would have been proud of, to any questions which touched on the red cards for Beckford and Doyle, so too for his own player Fernando Forestieri.
Grayson did not go down the ‘did not see it’ route, instead giving the dismissed pair both barrels.
It was a side of the Preston manager not seen before, thankfully he had never previously had the need to deliver such condemnation.
Whether Grayson was tempted to bring Beckford and Doyle with him into the press conference – as Graeme Souness did at Newcastle when team-mates Keiron Dyer and Lee Bowyer famously fought in 2005– we don’t know.
That would have made very good copy but might not have calmed things.
Blame was apportioned equally by Grayson, and rightly so.
Who did what, who started it, mattered little – both players over-stepped the mark.
Beckford’s scoring record sees him held in high regard by the Preston fans, Doyle yet to win many of them over.
Reputations meant nothing in this, they were both as daft as each other and have been carpeted as such.
The biggest punishment for them is the fact that in a season where they haven’t played a great deal, they can add another three games to that inactivity.
Doyle had come on, scored with his first touch and looked like he had the bit between his teeth – all for it to go horribly wrong.
It is Boxing Day when they become free of suspension, what price on one of them making an impact on their return?
That’s my last word on the subject, inside Deepdale it is considered closed and the time has come to move on.
There was probably nothing better than a good FA Cup draw to help push things along, coming out of the hat with Arsenal on Monday night certainly well-timed.
You cannot help but be excited by the Gunners’ visit, a side who start the weekend in second place in the Premier League and having just topped their Champions League group.
On their day, they play some of the best football in the top flight and are watchable in the extreme.
It would be great to see PNE pull off a shock result in front of the watching nation.
They briefly threatened one against Manchester United two seasons ago, leading for a few minutes before the visitors forced their way back into the contest with more than a little of a helping hand from some questionable refereeing decisions.
Chelsea had the game won by just after half-time when they were the visitors in 2010, with Liverpool winning the year before.
A surprise result is overdue on North End’s part, a chance to be in the limelight for all the right reasons.
The odds are against them but who knows?