Dave Seddon’s Preston North End pressview: Lancashire Post writer reflects on an unprecedented time in his career

Later this year, all being well , I will hit the 30th anniversary of working as a journalist and have been fortunate to cover football from the word go.

By Dave Seddon
Saturday, 4th April 2020, 6:00 am
Updated Saturday, 4th April 2020, 12:13 pm

For the first few years it was the press benches of Crown Court and Magistrates Court during the week and then Preston North End’s press box in the old Pavilion Stand at Deepdale.

Then I turned my hand exclusively to sport, a job I feel privileged to do.

Over the years there have been many challenges and bridges to cross in football journalism.

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Lancashire Post chief football writer Dave Seddon

An early challenge was visits to Wigan Athletic’s Springfield Park press box which I occasionally had to make.

You couldn’t see one of the goals properly because the box was in the corner of the main stand and in your line of vision was the sheet plastic side of the stand – smeared in dust and grime.

The other challenge was going into an environment which was still rather old school in journalism terms.

There was still the odd trilby hat frequenting the box, while chain smoking seemed the pastime of many hacks of the day.

The sign on the Wigan press box wall rather tongue in cheek read ‘Gentleman, when the floor is full please use the ashtrays provided’.

I’ve never smoked, I’ve never worn a trilby hat, and I’ve kept on reporting.

I mentioned earlier the changes I’ve seen in the industry down the years.

The big one has been the advent of digital in the form of websites and social media.

For a good few years after I started out, your only focus was on filling column inches of the paper.

Work for a local paper which didn’t have a late Saturday edition and the first time you could see your words in print was on a Monday lunchtime.

For the last decade or so the focus has been on the moment – live reporting, live Tweets and Facebook posts.

Each step forward has taken some adjusting to, but it becomes second nature.

Which brings me on to the new challenges we are all facing in our lives during the coronavirus pandemic.

If I may, I will just focus on the challenge of being a sport reporter at the moment.

Let me make it clear there are far greater challenges in other walks of life, however this is a football column and I’ll stick to the theme.

With no football and no sport being played, filling pages does take some thinking about.

There are no matches to hang stories on, no reaction from managers, little injury news of such.

We’ve had chats with players via phone and Skype about how they are keeping fit and staying occupied in the lockdown.

After a while though, there is not much more they can say. They are sticking to a fitness regime, watching what they eat and probably hammering the Xbox.

We can speculate all we want on possible return dates to training and action but at that this stage that is all it is – speculation.

Until we start to see the death rates and positive Covid-19 tests decrease, football takes a back seat.

There will be a time when football and competitive sport starts again and when that day comes it will be greeted with open arms.

Feature writing becomes important during this shutdown, analysing what we have seen so far this season and what might be the best tactical approaches for teams once we resume.

I do think people still want to read about sport as a release from coronavirus news.

The news is a tough watch at the moment, and it is good to have a distraction.

One football topic I’ve tried to lean on quite a lot is nostalgia.

We’ve carried a retro section in the Lancashire Post for many years and it always includes a PNE game from yesteryear – whether it be the 1970s, 80s, 90s or more recent.

They are so interesting to write, North End have a rich history which deserves highlighting.

It has not always been good days at Deepdale, far from in fact.

However, the dark days are just as much part of the history as the promotions, play-offs and strong runs of form.

For some readers, it will be a trip down memory lane, for others an introduction to what football was like before they started watching.

One of the best received stories of late was the feature on the time Alan Kelly Snr took over as North End boss in December 1983.

His first two games played in the space of 24 hours saw PNE scored nine goals – five of them against a Scunthorpe side with none other than England cricket captain Ian Botham at the heart of their defence.

Something like that deserves bringing to a wider audience rather than being hidden away in the archives.

During the shutdown, there will bits and bobs of transfer gossip popping up.

It is very much gossip though, rather than solid fact.

While clubs do have to plan for the future, the landscape will surely change in the intervening months.

If some clubs are furloughing staff and deferring wages, how can they be in a position now to be discussing transfer fees and wages for further down the line.

Of course clubs will have players who they would like to bring in once normality returns, but to commit to anything beyond the next few weeks and months would be folly.

The focus at the moment is trained on short-term survival and working out a plan to play the current season to a finish.

Hopefully as we get closer to the summer and get on top of Covid-19, more pages and column inches can get back to being populated by match analysis, player ratings, words from managers and supporters’ views.

It looks more and more like this season will be played behind closed doors to get it finished – mass gatherings will surely be frowned on for a while yet.

Do keep on reading, buy a paper if you can and please, keep safe.