PNE legend backs Mellor to shine

Preston North End goalscoring legend Alex Bruce insists Neil Mellor can take the Championship by storm next season.

Mellor finished the 2007-08 campaign as North End's top scorer, with 10 goals from just nine league starts for the Lilywhites.

But Bruce, North End's joint-second all-time leading marksman, says Mellor's impressive revival under Alan Irvine can set North End on course for a promotion tilt.

In all, North End used nine strikers last season – four of them on loan.

Between them they found the net just 29 times in 50 matches in league and cups.

Ten of those were scored by Mellor, nine of them after Irvine took over as manager.

Bruce said: "I bet Neil Mellor didn't want the season to end and he'll be desperate to take that momentum forward into the new campaign.

"There is no reason why he can't do that and he will be tremendously encouraged how the campaign finished for him.

"He ended the season in a fantastic vein of form and I'm sure he can continue that."

Bruce added: "Goalscoring is all about confidence and belief and Neil showed at the end of last season that he had rediscovered his best form again.

"Alan Irvine has put great faith in him and that has obviously given Neil a massive lift.

"When you know that a manager has that crucial belief in you, then it means so much and it does make a massive difference to your outlook.

"I had that in my career with Nobby Stiles at Preston, and he always had that belief in me as a goalscorer. Playing up front is never an easy role so you need all the backing you can get.

"But from what I've seen of Neil Mellor, he is a natural scorer and that's a rarity at any level of the game.

"He has a great eye for goal, and has had a fantastic background, playing in the Premier League and the European Cup for Liverpool. I'd certainly be ecstatic if he scored 20 goals next season, as would all Preston fans.

"He has had bad luck with injuries, but if he stays fit then Neil Mellor could have a massive season for Preston next year."

Bruce, who scored 157 league goals for PNE, formed a goal-laden partnership with Mike Elwiss as together they fired Preston to promotion under Stiles in 1978.

Bruce, though, believes Irvine is one of management's rising stars and is well capable of transforming Preston into a Championship force to be

reckoned with next term.

North End finished a respectable 15th in the Championship after struggling against the drop for most of last season.

So Irvine's stunning rescue act has lifted expectations for the 2008/09 campaign.

Does Bruce think North End can make the Premier League? Find out in Thursday's Lancashire Evening Post.