Craig Salmon’s PNE press view

PNE owner Trevor Hemmings
PNE owner Trevor Hemmings
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The news this week that Preston North End are the only club in the Championship free of debt has raised more than a few eyebrows in the world of football.

Insider Media Limited published a story which revealed that the 24 Championship clubs as a whole have run up a debt pile of more than £1billion.

According to the report, Bolton Wanderers are on top of the list with debts of £182.1million.

Queens Park Rangers (£179.6) are not too far behind the Trotters, while teams such as Ipswich, Hull and Cardiff City are also said to owe colossal amounts of cash.

At the other end of the scale, club such as Birmingham City, Burnley and Rotherham have very little debt amounts but North End stand alone as the only outfit in the second tier, which is in net funds.

PNE’s place in the report, of course, owes much to their owner Trevor Hemmings, who is believed to have wiped £34million off its balance sheet during the club’s latest accounts filed at Companies House.

It is probably a sad indictment at the way football is these days that Hemmings – despite being a lifelong fan and investing so heavily in the club over several years – still receives criticism from some sections of the club’s supporters.

So thirsty to see their club achieve success and compete at the highest echelons, many fans take the view that Hemmings is not digging into his pocket deep enough.

They would like to see million-pound players join on several thousand of pounds a week contracts, in the hope that success can be achieved.

As we all know, money does not guarantee success and many clubs have fallen by the wayside after gambling money they did not have.

Of course, North End have teetered on the brink of the abyss in the not too distant past.

Certainly in the Championship days of the noughties when the club was vying regularly for a spot in the Premier League – the boat was pushed out a bit too often.

It could be argued that the club suffered the consequence of that as they subsequently spent four years in the wilderness of League One.

Many times, PNE were so close to the Premier League gravy train and all the riches on offer, that the gamble seemed worthwhile.

Other clubs have found themselves in similar financial straits but played their ‘get-out-of-jail-free’ card by winning promotion to the top flight.

Unfortunately, as of yet, Preston have yet to taste the riches on offer in the top flight, but I think therein lies the problem. I would like to see the money distributed more evenly across the divisions – who knows it might offer the opportunity of smaller, less fashionable, clubs the chance to compete near the top.

One of English football’s greatest stories is seeing provincial clubs like Nottingham Forest and Derby County rise up and upset the status quo like they did in the 1970s.

In the decade before, eight teams claimed the First Division title in 10 years – the 23 years of the Premier League have largely been dominated by the same money-laden clubs.

The days of clubs like Forest winning the European Cup may be long gone, but at least a similar-sized club like Preston is back on a stable footing thanks to Hemmings.

With his continued backing and some shrewd signings by manager Simon Grayson, the club may just one day soon achieve the Holy Grail of the Premier League.

Then the club can benefit financially and the fans can enjoy the probable relegation scrap to come.