Meet the man who keep Press pack happy at PNE

Stephen Watson interviews PNE midfielder Neil Kilkenny on the pitch at Deepdale
Stephen Watson interviews PNE midfielder Neil Kilkenny on the pitch at Deepdale
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Accommodating the media at Deepdale is not generally too difficult for Preston.

The odd stroppy journalist or a weak wi-fi signal are occasional problems faced by PNE’s media team on a matchday.

Imagine then the size of the task they faced when North End landed Manchester United in the fifth round of the FA Cup last month.

Applications from the media for accreditation increased five-fold from a typical League One game.

The eyes of the world were on the game and the task which fell the way of PNE media executive Stephen Watson was to keep everyone happy, whether that be the local newspaper, the national press or hacks from way beyond these shores – not to mention 150 BBC staff.

Watson, who has worked at the club for four years, felt the big night was managed well from a media view point.

“Normally we get 40 to 60 writers, photographers and commentators at a league game here,” Watson told the Evening Post.

“For the United game we had more than 300 media at the game.

“The highest turnout we had previously in my time here was 60 towards the end of last season.

“Against United, we had 50 journalists sat in the press box in the Sir Tom Finney Stand and another 50 in a temporary press area in the Invincibles Pavilion.

“Some of the journalists who were only doing post-match pieces and interviews we had to accommodate in the press room – watching on television – because we didn’t have a spare seat. The photographers were sat around the edge of the pitch and the BBC had 150 or so staff there as they were broadcasting the game live.

“It is the biggest project I have been involved in here and it was a challenge.

“Had we managed to beat United, we would have had it all over again with Arsenal in the sixth round!”

Watson, a proud Scotsman, came south to study sports journalism at UCLan and has stayed in the region since.

During his studies, he took on the job of press steward at Deepdale – a matchday post which involves welcoming journalists to the club and making sure they get to the right place for interviews.

A few months away from graduation – in March 2013 – he landed the full-time role of media executive. Said Watson: “The job covers a number of tasks and is a wide-ranging one.

“I write for the official PNE website, the matchday programme, film video interviews, cover events which our community team do, arrange interviews and press conferences with the manager and players.”

The man he succeeded in the Deepdale media job was Jonathon Swift, someone who he will shaking hands with when North End make the trip to Fleetwood on Sunday afternoon.

“Jonathon is now the press officer at Fleetwood and doing very well there,” said Watson. “He left here to go to Bolton and then joined Fleetwood, so you can add him to the many Preston connections over there.”

Watson hails from Dalkeith in Midlothian, journalism a career he did not move into straight away.

“I was a police officer for four-and-a-half years in Scotland, then I took a career break and went travelling,” said Watson.

“While I was travelling I thought about a change of direction in career.

“I either wanted to do sports journalism or coach football in America which I’m qualified to do up to Under-18s level.

“The American thing fell through and I applied to do a sports journalism degree at UCLan.”

As well as watching football for a living, Watson has played to a decent standard.

He said: “I played semi-pro football in Scotland.

“Until I was 18, I was at Vale of Leithen, then after a spell of boys’ club football, I joined Tranent.”