Kelly has great PNE memories

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Alan Kelly still carries with him the memories of Preston North End’s 1986/87 promotion campaign.

Kelly was a teenager when he played 28 games between the posts that season, helping PNE finish as runners-up in the old Fourth Division.

Alan Kelly at Deepdale on Monday, preparing for his  trip to Wembley

Alan Kelly at Deepdale on Monday, preparing for his trip to Wembley

His time in football has come full circle, with him now holding the position of keeper coach on the North End staff.

He will be on the bench at Wembley this weekend as the Lilywhites do battle with Swindon for promotion to the Championship.

It is Kelly’s hope that the current crop of Preston players can experience the joy he felt all those years ago.

Kelly told the Evening Post: “It is 28 years since that promotion – that experience was absolutely unbelievable.

“I remember being at the Harris Museum, all the celebrations on the Flag Market – that will all stay with me until my dying day.

“I hope the players here now get to experience the same sort of celebrations.

“The players have worked hard to get themselves into this position.

“The performances over the last two seasons and the results they have put together have been excellent.

“Every credit to them for the way they have responded to the massive disappointment of Colchester.

“They went out and got two great results against Chesterfield to put themselves within one game of promotion.

“We are all a positive bunch here, there is no point being negative – we want to put on a performance on Sunday in order to try to get back to the Championship.”

Kelly has every reason to be proud when he looks back on Preston’s promotion of 28 years ago.

A team put together by the late John McGrath for just £15,000 – the proceeds of the sale of Nigel Greenwood to Bury – finished second behind champions Northampton. That side also knocked Middlesbrough out of the FA Cup and pushed Newcastle all the way in the following round at St James’ Park.

McGrath’s team was an assortment of cast-offs, wily old professionals in the autumn of their careers and fresh-faced young pups like Kelly.

His first-team debut had come during the re-election season – within a year he had a promotion medal to savour.

Kelly shared the keeping duties that season with the experienced David Brown.

His passion and job now is to get the best of the North End goalkeepers.

Preparations for the Preston squad ahead of Wembley have moved to Deepdale.

The pitch has been marked out in the same dimensions as Wembley as part of the attention to detail.

For the record, the Wembley playing surface is longer but narrower than Deepdale.

Said Kelly: “The mood in the squad is very good and the lads are obviously looking forward to playing at Wembley.

“Personally, I love training at the stadium like we have been doing.

“It is a bit different, breaks up the routine and we have marked the pitch out so it is the same size as Wembley.

“We’ve got a few days to tidy one or two things up and to keep the lads ticking over until Sunday.

“The build-up has actually been a very long one.

“By the time we get to Wembley on Sunday, it will have been two weeks since the second leg against Chesterfield. That is a decent amount of time between games.

“The only thing I can liken that to is international games at the end of a season.

“When you play internationals in June, they can come two or three weeks after the domestic season has ended.

“This break has given the lads the chance to rest and recuperate – it has been a long season.

“So come Sunday they will firing on the front foot and ready for a massive game at Wembley against a very good Swindon side.”