History beckons for PNE says Welsh

John Welsh cannot wait to get on to the Wembley turf
John Welsh cannot wait to get on to the Wembley turf
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Midfield general John Welsh has urged his Preston North End team-mates to be record breakers on Sunday.

North End travel to Wembley to take on Swindon Town in the League One play-off final with the prize of promotion to the Championship on offer to the winners.

As a club, PNE take an unenviable record into the crunch clash having never secured promotion via the play-offs in modern-day history.

Nine times they have qualified for the end-of-season lottery and each time their attempts to go up have ended in failure.

Welsh knows all about the club’s ‘play-off curse’ – indeed he was part of the team which was beaten by Rotherham in last season’s semi-finals.

But the former Liverpool and Tranmere player sees no reason why he and his fellow team-mates cannot write themselves into club folklore as the men who finally ended North End’s play-off hoodoo.

He pointed to the fact that this year was the first time in its history that the club had won an away leg of a play-off semi-final as a lucky omen, ahead of this weekend’s final.

“We are trying not to think too much about the fact that Preston have never won the play-offs,” Welsh said.

“But records are there to be broken. You see it all the time in football – or in any sport for that matter.

“I think we broke a record the other week – winning the away leg of the semi-final.

“So that’s one record broken already – that’s a good sign of things to come.”

Sunday will be the first time Welsh has ever played at Wembley and he admits it is going to be a big occasion for him.

However, he cannot afford to take his mind off the ultimate aim, which is to help Preston secure promotion back to the Championship.

“You have got to be professional,” said Welsh.

“Just getting to Wembley does not mean anything.

“There probably will be times when you can take it all in as a spectacle.

“Obviously walking out on to the pitch will be something, but once the handshakes are done, I will be firmly back into professional mode and looking to win the game.”

Having won and lost against Swindon this season, Welsh knows all about the Robins’ strength. He watched with interest as they edged past Sheffield United in the semi-finals 6-5, including the amazing 5-5 draw in the second leg at the County Ground.

“I started watching the second leg in professional mode but by the end of the game I was like a fan,” he said.

“You just didn’t know which way it was going to go.

“We know what Swindon are all about. They get the ball down and play. They’ve got some good players. But we’ve got some special talents in Joe Garner and Jermaine Beckford.

“We’ve got some good dependable players and good creativity in midfield. I am sure if we get the confidence levels right we will be a force to be reckoned with on Sunday.”

As of yesterday morning, North End had sold 21,000 tickets for the final at Wembley.