Kilkenny exit a landmark PNE move

Neil Kilkenny celebrating at Wembley
Neil Kilkenny celebrating at Wembley
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Neil Kilkenny’s release by Preston sees him become the first outfield player from the Wembley-winning side to depart Deepdale.

Lilywhites manager Simon Grayson kept the core of the squad together after last May’s 4-0 play-off final win over Swindon and that loyalty was rewarded with a strong first season in the Championship.

Goalkeeper Sam Johnstone returned to Manchester United but the 10 outfield starters all stayed to play an active part this term.

Kilkenny was in a three-man midfield at Wembley, together with John Welsh and Daniel Johnson.

That was the Australian’s 49th appearance of the season. However, game-time has been limited in the campaign just finished.

He started six league games, came off the bench in seven others and was in the starting XI for two cup games.

The fact that Kilkenny did not get on the pitch after Boxing Day, suggested the writing was on the wall in terms of his PNE future.

His last appearance was at Huddersfield on a grim day in Yorkshire when no one in a Preston shirt did themselves any real credit.

In the previous game at Leeds, Kilkenny had come off the bench early in the second half and put in a strong display.

He forced three saves out of the Leeds keeper and there a frustrated tone to the interview he gave afterwards.

“It was nice to have a game really,” said Kilkenny.

“I haven’t played much this season, which is frustrating, but what can you do?

“I will always be there as an option to get the ball and receive the ball. That is my game to get possession and keep possession.

“I felt I did that at Leeds and I feel like I do that every game. In English football you probably need to score goals to get recognised and maybe that is my downfall.”

Of the other players who started at Wembley, Jermaine Beckford had the least amount of action this season due to the knee injury which sidelined him until March.

Welsh started 13 times in the league and came on as a sub in a further 11 games.

Paul Huntington, Tom Clarke, Bailey Wright and Calum Woods have all been regulars in defence this term.

Johnson, Gallagher and Garner made more than 40 Championship appearances.

Of those on the bench at Wembley, Alan Browne – a first-half replacement for the injured Gallagher – started 27 league games this term.

Jordan Hugill and Chris Humphrey, who were unused subs on the day, have had mixed fortunes since.

Hugill has been a regular in the squad and used in the main from the bench, scoring in the derby victories at Bolton and Blackburn, as well as against Leeds on the final day.

A fractured shin restricted Humphrey to six starts and seven sub appearances.

Of the other subs at Wembley, Scott Laird and Thorsten Stuckmann moved on last summer after rejecting new deals, with Kevin Davies retiring.

Kyel Reid started the season with North End but joined Bradford on loan in October and has been there since.

Like Kilkenny, winger Reid was released earlier this week, together with Andy Little, Jack Ryan, Chris Kirkland, Josh Heaton and Nick Anderton.