EXCLUSIVE Sean Gregan column: Preston North End midfield duo as good as anything in the division

Watching Ben Pearson and Alan Browne in action makes me yearn to phone my old mate Ranks up and tell him to get his boots on and I’ll get mine on.

Friday, 14th February 2020, 5:00 pm

Myself and Mark Rankine enjoyed pitting our wits against the best in the division when we patrolled the midfield for Preston back in the early noughties.

And there are not too many pairings better than Pearson and Browne in the Championship in my opinion – I would love to see how me and Ranks would compare.

I am 45 now and Ranks is five years older so I don’t think we would stand much of a chance against them now, but back in our heyday we might have just given them a game.

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Alan Browne (left) and Ben Pearson with North End boss Alex Neil

The great thing is they play for North End and I see no reason why they can’t go on and play in the Premier League. Why not?

Pearson has a name for being a bit of a digger, but as we have seen recently he possesses a lot of quality and is capable of picking out that killer pass.

Browne has been integral now to the PNE midfield for a a good few years now and provides the legs that every team needs. It was good to see him get the opening goal at Stoke City on Wednesday night, which set PNE on the way to a crucial 2-0 away victory.

It’s been a great week for the club – the win over the Potters following Saturday’s 2-1 success in the derby over Wigan at the DW Stadium.

Mark Rankine and myself in our PNE days

As I have said previously that dip they had over Christmas could have really affected them but they have really come back strongly.

It was good to see that North End could win in a different way.

We saw the excellent attacking football against Wigan, but then they had to dig in to secure the points.

And at Stoke a change of tactic to a more direct approach in the second half worked a treat.

They are right in there in terms of automatic promotion. West Bromwich Albion have pulled away at the top and I would expect them to go and seal one of those top-two spots.

But we have said that before, when West Brom and Leeds United pulled 10 points clear than everybody else.

Leeds had a decent 
result in midweek drawing at Brentford – another team in the promotion race – but they are experiencing another case of the collywobbles. They are now in second spot in table by virtue of having a better goal difference.

But only three points separate them and Bristol City, who are in seventh.

North End are in sixth and have an put themselves in with a great chance of finally achieving the Holy Grail and getting that place in the 
Premier League.

They have got two home games coming up, starting with Millwall at Deepdale this weekend and Hull City the following week.

If they can get maximum points out of those two games – easier said than done, I know – but that will set them up nicely for two huge away games at third-placed Fulham and West Bromwich Albion.