Owner wants to see PNE compete in top half of Championship

Paul Huntington is congratulated by Bailey Wright at Wembley
Paul Huntington is congratulated by Bailey Wright at Wembley
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Preston North End owner Trevor Hemmings is aiming for the top half of the Championship after the Lilywhites’ play-off final victory at Wembley.

Hemmings takes the view that the current squad is good enough to compete in the second tier of English football but wants to push further.

So he will be backing PNE manager Simon Grayson over the summer in his efforts to strengthen the talent pool at Deepdale.

“As they are now, they would be a team in the lower half of the Championship,” Hemmings told the Evening Post.

“Our job is to build them so they can be in the upper half of the table.

“As things stand, the squad are quite capable and talented enough to survive but we want more than survival.

“I look at it as like being on a ladder – we want to carry on climbing up it and not down.

“I’m looking seriously at the next step. We will consolidate our place in the Championship and look to push on.

“We will aim to achieve better things – look at what Bournemouth have done for example.

“The Preston fans are ready for this next level of football and we don’t want to let them down at all.”

Hemmings, whose horse Many Clouds won the Grand National just six weeks ago, was at Wembley to see the 4-0 demolition of Swindon.

The 79-year-old described his double sporting success as a ‘dream come true’ and felt PNE’s win was a thoroughly deserved one.

Said Hemmings: “I felt elated at the final whistle, it was a wonderful day.

“What was particularly good was looking around Wembley and seeing so many people in Preston colours.

“To have 24,000 people go from Preston to cheer on their side was incredible.

“It was a well-managed performance from Simon – he has done a great job here. Simon read Swindon well, he let them have the ball in areas he wanted them to, where it wasn’t going to hurt us.

“It was a memorable day for the Preston fans.”

Hemmings was at Deepdale yesterday for an impromptu celebration lunch for the PNE players and their families.

The club’s end-of-season awards were handed out, with central defender Paul Huntington – scorer of the second goal on Sunday – voted player of the year.

Paul Gallagher won the players’ player of the year award, while Kevin Davies got the community player award.

Joe Garner’s chip in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy win over Port Vale won the striker goal of the season.

With regards to celebrating promotion, there will be no civic parade and open-top bus ride for the players.

“Unfortunately there will be no massive celebration,” said Grayson.

“It is very difficult to do something at short notice. Had we organised it in advance and things hadn’t happened on the pitch, we would have fallen flat on our faces.

“The players need to get away on their holidays and I’m on a Pro-Licence refresher course at the end of the week.

“Hopefully the majority of fans were able to celebrate with us at Wembley.

“Even the event yesterday for the players and families was only organised on the way back from the final.

“It would have been unfair on the lads who won the player of the year awards not to have received them.

“Mr Hemmings also wanted to come over from the Isle of Man to see the lads.”

Meanwhile, Bailey Wright’s season will go into extra time after he was named in the Australia squad for their World Cup qualifier against Kyrgyzstan on June 16.