Emotional day for PNE legend George

Former Preston captains Ian Bryson  and George Ross celebrate their former club's promotion at Wembley
Former Preston captains Ian Bryson and George Ross celebrate their former club's promotion at Wembley
Have your say

George Ross could not hide his emotions after watching his beloved Preston North End win a play-off final for the very first time.

The 72-year-old had not set foot inside Wembley Stadium since playing for PNE in the FA Cup Final against West Ham United in 1964.

His appearance on that occasion ended in disappointment as Preston were beaten 3-2 by the Hammers.

There was no such heartache for Ross this time though as the club’s current crop demolished Swindon Town 4-0 to seal promotion to the Championship.

The former Deepdale skipper watched the action unfold next to his friend – and fellow ex-P NE captain – Ian Bryson from just below the Royal Box.

Feeling apprehensive beforehand, Ross was overjoyed to see his club race into a 2-0 lead.

At the final whistle as the players celebrated with the thousands of Lilywhite supporters, the Scottish-born Deepdale legend wasovercome with emotion.

“A totally unbelievable day,”Ross said.

“I can’t put it into words. The script could have been written any better.

“I got fed-up of hearing about the jinx or the curse of the play-offs.

“But that has been put to bed now.

“All my friends will tell you, I have always said there has never been a curse and that has been proven.

“The lads have done brilliantly and it’s a very proud day to be a Preston supporter.

“It’s just been a marvellous day forall the supporters – you can see how much it means to them.

“We have been waiting for this day for ages.

“I will certainly be in a celebratory mood for a long time to come.”

Bryson was looking forward to enjoying a few drinks with Ross.

It’s more than 20 years ago since the ex-midfielder scored an overhead kick in the 1994 old Third Division play-off final at old Wembley against Wycombe Wanderers.

Unfortunately, Bryson left the pitch that day as a loser after a 4-2 defeat.

He admitted that the victory over Swindon went a long way to easing that painful memory.

“It’s a fantastic day,” he said.

“We’ve had a few occasions like this in the past and not been able to manage to do it.

“It’s just been a great day, great atmosphere and, of course, a fanatastic result.

“I remember playing at Wembley in 1994 and we did not deserve to win that day – Wycombe were the better side.

“But from the first whistle against Swindon, North End were right at it , got the early goal and that made a massive difference.

“It settled everything down and the team just went from strength to strength.

“But I think if you looked at both teams’ squads, our squad was more experienced.

“Swindon had a lot of youth in their line-up, who had not really played in big games like this.

“I think that probably told on the day.

“It’s easy to say that in hindsight, but all North End had to do was go out there and do their best and get the result and they’ve done it.

Although it was a tremendous team performance by PNE, Bryson had a special word of praise for Beckford, who lit up Wembley with three sublime strikes.

“Jermaine Beckford’s goals were fantastic,” he said.

“He is a class act. You can tell he’s played at higher level.

“Every chance he had, he looked like he was going to score. He got three, he could have had four – he had another one-on-one and the keeper made a great save.

“But to get a hat-trick in a play-off final at Wembley, you could not have asked for anything more than that.”

Now that Championship football has been confirmed for next season, Bryson is looking forward to seeing some big clubs arrive at Deepdale .

“No club has any God given right to be in the Championship,” he said.

“But I believe this club belongs there and it will be nice to look forward to some of the big games next year.

“Burnley are back down from the Premier League so that’s a massive derby, but for a city the size of Preston, the Championship is a great league to be in.”

Bryson believes that next season the present squad can hold its own in the second tier of football as long as manager Simon Grayson is able to bring in reinforcements.

“I think they will have to be a few changes,”he said.

“But the manager Simon Grayson will know that.

“That’s the nature of football. You go up a league – you have to strengthen.

“You have to take the league seriously and we want to stay in the Championship and aim for higher.

“Simon has got a terrific record at this level, he’s managed in the Championship but he will want to manage in the Premier League.

“That’s the one thing missing from his CV.

“This is the fourth time he’s taken a team up from this division and when you think, that’s an amazing achievement for a manager who has never managed in the Premier League.

“There might be a few other clubs sniffing around him after this, but hopefully Preston will be able to keep him.”