Former PNE great Graham Alexander excited by local derbies — with Burnley, Blackpool and Blackburn Rovers housed in the Championship

Graham Alexander would love to be a fly on the wall when Preston, Burnley, Blackpool and Blackburn Rovers occupy the same division next season.

By Dan Black
Wednesday, 15th June 2022, 6:00 am
Updated Wednesday, 15th June 2022, 2:12 pm

The Lancashire quartet will compete at the same level for the first time in more than 60 years after the Clarets' six-year stay in the Premier League came to an end.

The former Lilywhites captain, who also had a successful spell at Turf Moor, enjoyed the blood and thunder of local derbies as a player, and he believes next season's nuance will add extra spice to the Championship.

"I always loved the derby games and I think most players do. The football sometimes gets put to the side and it becomes more of a battle," said the 50-year-old former Deepdale favourite. "Whoever got the result got a real step up on their direct rivals.

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WATFORD - MARCH 4: Graham Alexander of Preston North End uses his strength to take the ball past Jason Norville of Watford during the Nationwide League Division One match held on March 4, 2003 at Vicarage Road, in Watford, England. Preston North End won the match 1-0. (Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)

"If players want to play in atmospheres that are electric, aggressive and loud then that's what you get with derby games. It added an edge to them. I think it's only a positive that the area is a hotbed for traditional football clubs that have got rich histories.

"It would be great if they were all playing in the Premier League, but the Championship is a brilliant division, it's really strong and competitive, and some of the games you play in, and the stadiums you play at, are brilliant. There are massive clubs at that level and the fans will really look forward to those games."

The last time all four clubs were in the same division was way back in the 1960/61 term — the season after Harry Potts’ Burnley had been crowned champions of England for the second time.

Burnley finished fourth in the First Division that year with Blackburn in eighth and Blackpool 20th.

NORWICH, UNITED KINGDOM - AUGUST 08: Youssef Safri of Norwich tackles Graham Alexander of Preston during the Coca-Cola Championship match between Norwich City and Preston North End at Carrow Road on August 8, 2006 in Norwich, England. (Photo by Jamie McDonald/Getty Images)

Preston, however, were relegated that season, their first without Sir Tom Finney, and the four clubs have never reconvened since.

Wigan Athletic's promotion as champions from League One will also add to the excitement of the 2022-23 campaign.

Alexander featured in games against Burnley, Blackpool and the Latics in 1999-00 when North End climbed out of Division Two.

The Clarets — who went up as runners up on the final day of term — Rovers and Bolton Wanderers were then awaiting David Moyes' men in the Championship.

Alexander said: "I remember when I played for Preston it was Burnley and Wigan competing at the top end of the table.

"Preston and Burnley finished first and second and Wigan ended up in the play-offs. That was when Dave Whelan took over and put a lot of money into the club.

"I remember those games and they were massive and some of them were season-defining because we were competing against each other.

"That then went into the Championship when Blackburn Rovers were in there. They were all there or thereabouts."

Burnley, Blackpool, Rovers and Wigan have all experienced Premier League football since its inauguration 30 years ago.

Motherwell boss Alexander is desperate to see North End complete the set after a string of failed play-off campaigns during his time at the club.

With just a couple of top 10 finishes in England's second tier since, Alexander concluded: "Preston are unfortunate to be the only team in that group that hasn't played in the Premier League, but Deepdale is an amazing stadium, they've got brilliant new training facilities.

"It's hard to tell what the future holds; unfortunately Trevor Hemmings passed and he ran the club for such a long time.

"It's a different scenario but, without a doubt, Preston is a fantastic club and deserves at some point to grace the Premier League. As always, you've got to earn it on the pitch and I think Preston is a really attractive club for a player to play at. It would be great to one day see them competing in the top flight."