Deepdale farewell for some PNE stalwarts?

John Welsh thanks the Preston fans at Deepdale
John Welsh thanks the Preston fans at Deepdale

Preston fans took the chance to salute the North End players who made their final day walk around the pitch following the Burton game.

The lap of thanks has grown into a tradition at many football grounds and the PNE squad – many with their families – paraded at Deepdale accompanied by supporters’ applause.

Paul Gallagher applauds the fans ' was he saying goodbye?

Paul Gallagher applauds the fans ' was he saying goodbye?

Unfortunately it was their final act of the season, the 2-1 win not enough to send the campaign into extra time with involvement in the 
play-offs.

But players and fans alike will have broken up for the close season with a feeling of optimism about what could be ahead.

For some of the players, the lap of thanks would have been their last act as North End employers.

A special farewell had been said before kick-off for John Welsh.

The midfielder is leaving Preston this summer at the end of his contract, bringing the curtain down on a six-year stay.

As the teams came out, both stood to form a guard of honour – Welsh walking down it to receive a special memento of his time at PNE from Alex Neil.

With the professional game seemingly taking an short-term approach, six years service for a player is getting a rarity.

Welsh leaves after playing 176 times in a Preston shirt, scoring three goals.

He wore the skipper’s armband and even when Tom Clarke took over that duty on the pitch, Welsh was to remain as club captain.

Such leadership will not be easy to replace, even is his appearances on the pitch have been limited in the last two seasons.

It leaves central defender Paul Huntington to fly the flag as the sole survivor of the class of 2012 – that summer the PNE squad was turned upside down, out went the old and in came the new.

For the current group of players, they are now on their holidays until June 28.

Some have international duty ahead of them, with five North Enders in the Republic of Ireland squad

Greg Cunningham, Sean Maguire, Alan Browne, Greg Cunningham and Callum Robinson will link up with the Irish squad this week.

Two more PNE players, goalkeeper Chris Maxwell and winger Billy Bodin, could well be in the Wales squad for summer internationals.

Preston’s seventh-place finish with 73 points was to represent a big improvement on the last two seasons.

Two years running they amassed 62 points and made 11th place their own – now the aim is to push on again.