Dave Seddon's Preston North End press view: Tommy Docherty joins a PNE roll of honour

Before Preston’s game against Coventry City on Tuesday night, the names of those North End fans and former players who passed away in 2020 were listed on the big screen above the Bill Shankly Kop.

Friday, 1st January 2021, 4:45 pm
Updated Friday, 1st January 2021, 9:56 pm

It was a poignant moment, players and officials stood in silence around the centre circle as the names scrolled down the screen.

North End do this annually at the last home game of the year, it’s something they do very well and gives a lot of comfort to relatives and friends.

There’s no hierarchy on the list, fans and former players listed alphabetically by first name.

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Tommy Docherty (front row) with the Preston North End squad in the 1981/82 season

Every name on there meant so much to somebody, whether they played on the Deepdale turf in years gone by or watched from the terraces and stands.

On the playing front, Alex Dawson, Michael Robinson, Nobby Stiles, David Sneddon, Leo Gornall and John Calligan were among those listed.

Mike King too, the local comedian who had us in stitches at sportsman’s dinners – he played for PNE’s B team in his younger days.

Tommy Docherty will be on next year’s roll, a man who both played for and managed this great club of ours.

PNE and Coventry players observe a minute's silence before kick-off in a mark of respect to the North End fans and former players who died in 2020

The ‘Doc’ passed away on New Year’s Eve at the age of 92, after a long illness.

Tributes flooded in when news of his passing was announced, with him having been a big character and a big name in the game.

Outside of Preston, he will be remembered best for his five years as Manchester United manager, leading the Red Devils to FA Cup glory in 1977 against Liverpool.

Docherty managed 12 clubs – PNE briefly – as well as having a stint in charge of the Scotland team.

Tom Finney, Joe Marston and Tommy Docherty training with North End

A large part of Docherty’s playing career was spent at North End and he proved a loyal servant.

During nine years at Deepdale, he pulled on the Preston shirt 358 times.

Of those appearances, 323 were in league action and the Doc is in the elite ‘300 club’ in that respect.

Only 18 players in PNE’s history have played 300 games or more for them in the league.

Tommy Docherty and Sir Tom Finney at Deepdale

He’s in fine company, Sir Tom Finney, Alan Kelly Snr, Willie Cunningham, Alan Spavin and Peter McBride among its members.

You have to be a certain age to remember Docherty as a Preston player, with him leaving in 1958 to sign for Arsenal.

I spoke to my dad about him during a New Year’s Eve chat on the phone – he remembers PNE targeting Docherty to replace Bill Shankly.

Watchers of North End between 1949 and 1958 will recall Docherty making the No.4 shirt his own.

He didn’t miss many matches, an ever present in the season PNE won the Second Division title.

When North End were pipped to the league title by Arsenal on goal average, Docherty played all but one game that season.

For Preston fans who weren’t around in the 1950s, our memories of The Doc at Deepdale were restricted to a six-month stay as manager in 1981.

That won’t go down as his finest hour, nor the decision of North End to appoint him.

Although PNE had been relegated from the Second Division, the decision to part company with Nobby Stiles was a harsh one.

Docherty was managing Sydney Olympic in Australia when the Preston board turned to him.

Who remembers Sydney Olympic pitching up at Deepdale on a Thursday night for a friendly game as part of the deal?

PNE won 8-0 and it was the first match I watched from the Pavilion Paddock, having been in other areas of the ground in the years before.

Docherty oversaw just three league wins in his time in charge, together with another couple in the League Cup.

He played a 4-2-4 system with wingers, as he had done at United.

North End featured on Match of the Day away to Bristol City one Saturday night during Doc’s reign.

He’d recently signed Tommy Booth, Barry Dunn, Gary Buckley and John Kelly, the four lining up side by side before kick-off for the benefit of the cameras.

That game finished 0-0, not sparkling entertaining in the days when MOTD had just two featured matches.

Docherty was sacked by PNE in December that year, with Gordon Lee brought in to replace him.

It would be right that Docherty’s association with Preston be remembered for his exploits on the pitch 358 times over, rather than that half-year off it in 1981.

That time as manager didn’t knock his love for the club, in particular for Sir Tom Finney.

A few times in this job, I rang Docherty and once he knew the call was coming from Preston, he would launch straight down memory lane from his time at Deepdale.

No one came close to Sir Tom, in Docherty’s opinion, when it came to talent.

He would compare him to Lionel Messi and then declare his PNE team-mate as the better of the two.

The Doc was a mourner at Sir Tom’s funeral in 2014 and read a lesson at the service - the pair were firm friends.

Docherty’s passing was a sad way for 2020 to end, a year when sadness has blighted the planet.

Let us hope that 2021 can bring cheer and normality to our lives.

It’s almost 10 months since Preston fans last set foot in Deepdale.

Not since February 29 has a PNE away following travelled the country.

When 2,900 North Enders descended on Fulham that day, did any of us think it would be the last away game for a long while with no return date yet in sight?

A handful of fans wore face masks that day, more as a fancy dress prop than something to protect your health and well being.

Hopefully at some point in 2021 we will all be back in grounds – spread out to start with but moving closer together in time.

Happy New Year to you all, here’s to a better 2021.

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