Dave Seddon’s PNE Press View: Blackpool and Liverpool clashes days apart are something to savour
Blackpool and Liverpool a few days apart makes for an exciting spell in October for Preston North End.
As PNE were paired with Jurgen Klopp’s side in the draw for the fourth round of the Carabao Cup, it began to dawn that the game would follow hot on the heels of the derby with the Seasiders at Bloomfield Road.
If the prospect of that double header doesn’t get the pulse racing, what will?
It’s been eight years since North End and Blackpool faced one another, nearly 12 since a trip down the M55.
A dozen years have passed from a competitive meeting with Liverpool, an FA Cup tie at Deepdale in Janaury 2009.
There were a couple of kick-abouts in pre-season against the Reds in 2013 and 2014 but not the real thing.
It’s the Blackpool game which will stir the passion of most North Enders ahead of Liverpool’s visit.
They are two totally different occasions, at different venues for a start.
At stake on the Fylde coast will not only be three points but a deep sense of local pride.
When a derby hasn’t been played for a number of years, a real edge will have built up.
Derbies played season after season lose a little of their sharpness, hence the anticipation of a resumption in hostilities.
The Liverpool game is a bit different but still one to be looked forward to.
It will be more about filling the ground, what priority tickets will be sold in, the chance on the night for North End to mix it with those around the edges of Klopp’s squad.
I see it as a bonus game, the reward for Frankie McAvoy and his staff treating the Carabao Cup with a decent level of respect.
Three strong sides were put on to the field by McAvoy to see off Mansfield Town, Morecambe and, on Tuesday night, Cheltenham.
The following evening, all eyes went on the Potton Bowls Club, Bedfordshire, where the draw for the last 16 was made – one of the more curious venues for names to be pulled from the hat.
Mind you, a few years back Thailand was the venue for a round of the Carabao Cup, so Potton Bowls Club was maybe not as strange then at first glance.
I’ve always banged on that North End should take the cup competitions with a high level of seriousness.
They are not a distraction to the league games and as this week has shown, can be financially rewarding.
Liverpool’s visit should sell out, as Manchester City’s trip to these parts two years ago did.
With extra revenue from hospitality and advertising, it will be a welcome boost for the club coffers.
PNE will be the underdog, Liverpool the favourites, and we’ll see what happens.
There is bound to be some ‘noise’ about tickets, about whether some seats get into the wrong hands – common speculation when a big cup tie is landed.
I dare say some Reds fans living in the area might for one night abandon their favourite bar stool and turn up at Deepdale.
Hopefully, North End will take on the 2019/20 Premier League winners in good heart on the back of a win at Blackpool.
Before all that, there’s lots of water to flow under the bridge. PNE have five league games to play between now and Blackpool.
Birmingham, Stoke and QPR are the opposition before the international break, Derby and Coventry after it.
Only then can the players focus on a Seaside visit, although there’s nothing to stop the fans thinking ahead.
McAvoy struck exactly the right tone in Thursday’s press conference, a few hours after Liverpool came out of the hat.
The Scot is a big believer in his ‘one game at a time’ mantra, his focus until Saturday teatime firmly trained on Birmingham.
At the appropriate time he will think about Blackpool and then Liverpool.
McAvoy has taken PNE on a seven-game unbeaten run going into this weekend.
A key few days are ahead, with the Birmingham trip and that to QPR next Saturday sandwiching the Deepdale meeting with Stoke on Tuesday night.
If McAvoy’s men can put a decent points haul on the board before the October international break, they will be able to reflect on a pretty positive few weeks.
Not quite everything has gone smoothly of late, the injury suffered by Connor Wickham in the early stages against Cheltenham, a big blow to the striker and indeed to North End.
You have to feel for the lad, having worked hard in a month’s trial at Euxton to get into a position where it was seen fit to offer him a deal.
There was a risk attached, that shown by his contract being only four months in length. We’ll have to see if Wickham makes it back within that time.
PNE had taken Wickham on in order to offer them a different option up front.
He’s a big, physical lad, ideal for giving a defence a tough time and bringing others into play.
Wickham is not the prolific striker which all clubs yearn for, with there not being a huge number of those out there unless you are paying top dollar.
However, he was there for McAvoy to use if he wanted something a bit different.
After the Cheltenham game, an injury suffered by Liam Lindsay also got some extension coverage.
Thankfully it seems the damage to the defender’s knee was not quite as bad as first feared.
Ahead of the excitement of beating Cheltenham and landing Liverpool, the big news out of Deepdale were the new contracts for Jordan Storey and Brad Potts.
Fan reaction contrasted greatly between the deals, Storey’s three-year contract warmly welcomed, Potts’ extra two years not quite so.
Storey is in his fourth season here and consistency is coming into his game, with 29 successive starts made since February.
In football parlance, his deal was a ‘no-brainer’.
Such consistency of selection has evaded Potts at PNE but he’s a regular in McAvoy’s squad and has the trust of the head coach.