Baz won’t be drawn over PNE’s derby date

Mick Rathbone helps PNE's Paul McKenna in 2001
Mick Rathbone helps PNE's Paul McKenna in 2001
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Mick Rathbone is happy to sit on the fence when it comes to making a score prediction for Preston North End’s derby against Blackburn this weekend.

‘Baz’ served both clubs with distinction for a number of years, Rovers as a player for eight years and PNE, firstly as a player, and then physio.

Fondly remembered at Ewood Park and Deepdale in equal measure, Rathbone is predicting a draw in Saturday’s lunchtime meeting.

“It will probably be a very tight game as derbies tend to be,” Rathbone told the Evening Post.

“The Championship is a division where you can win three on the trot and look like you are going up or lose three on the bounce and face being in a relegation scrap.

“Not too long ago it looked like Blackburn were going to be dragged into the battle at the bottom, while Preston had a good run and weren’t far off the play-offs.

“There was only one goal between the sides at Deepdale in November.

“I’ll go for a draw and I hope it is a good game.

“As a player, it was a real privilege to have served two founder members of the Football League.

“When you travel around the country, you find a genuine affection for founder members and rightly so.

“I would love to see Preston reach the Premier League one day.

“Blackburn, Burnley and Blackpool have been there, so too Bolton, so there is no reason why Preston cannot have a taste of it.

“When I was physio there, we came ever so close to the Premier League in 2001 when we lost in the play-off final to Bolton at the Millennium Stadium.”

Rathbone’s link with Lancashire began in February 1979 when he joined Rovers on loan from Birmingham. The following month that turned into a permanent switch, as he moved for £40,000.

Rathbone stayed at Ewood until August 1987, making more than 300 appearances.

He did not move far, just a few miles west to join North End in a £20,000 deal.

Serving PNE in both full-back roles, Rathbone was part of the squad which made it to the old Third Division play-offs in 1988/89.

“I moved to Blackburn in 1979 and have stayed living in the town ever since,” said Rathbone.

“Recently, I was looking on a PNE fans’ website and there was a picture of Alex Bruce scoring that terrific winner for Preston against Rovers in March 1979.

“That was only my second or third game for Rovers and I’m on that photograph in the No.2 shirt trying to block the shot.

“History will show that I was not successful in doing that!”

After retiring from playing in 1991, Rathbone trained as a physio and briefly ended-up in the role of manager-physio at Halifax Town.

He returned to North End in 1996 as physio and stayed until 2002 when David Moyes took him to Everton.

There was to be another short stint at Deepdale in 2011 when he came back to help out during Phil Brown’s reign as PNE manager.

Rathbone has just ended a five-year spell working with England – firstly at Under-17s level and more recently with the Under-20s.

Read the big interview with Rathbone in Saturday’s LEP