A decade at Preston North End: How the last 10 years have played out at Deepdale

Five managers, one trip to Wembley, one promotion, one relegation, a winding-up petition, a change of ownership – plenty has happened in the last decade at Preston North End.

Sunday, 29th December 2019, 6:00 am
Preston North End's big moment of the decade when they beat Swindon 4-0 at Wembley in the League One play-off final in May 2015

The first part of the decade was on the turbulent side, the last few years far less choppy – although pushing for the Premier League does lead to a few ups and downs.

So as we near the arrival of 2020 and a new decade, let’s look back at what went on at North End between January 2010 and the dying embers of 2019.

The decade started with a caretaker boss in charge, Rob Kelly at the helm after the rather unjust sacking of Alan Irvine had been one of the final acts of 2009.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Jon Parkin scored a hat-trick in PNE's 7-0 win over Colchester in the FA Cup which got the decade off to a flying start

Kelly oversaw a 7-0 win over Colchester United in the FA Cup on January 2, 2010, Jon Parkin bagging a hat-trick.

It was Kelly’s one and only game in charge of North End, Darren Ferguson appointed as successor to Irvine a few days later.

A 4-2 defeat at Bristol City in his first game was a sign of things to come, Fergie Jnr not the success it was hoped he could be.

PNE rather limped through the remainder of that season, a pattern to be repeated as the name on the manager’s door changed regularly.

Darren Ferguson (right) with chairman Derek Shaw on his appoint as PNE manager in January 2010

Once the curtain had come down on the 2009/10 campaign, North End were hit with a winding-up petition from HMRC over an unpaid tax bill.

The long and short of it was that Trevor Hemmings took overall control of the club, paying 5p per share – a number of which had been owned by fans via two share offers in the mid 1990s.

North End got a new chairman too, Maurice Lindsay appointed in place of Derek Shaw.

The former Wigan rugby league supremo was a surprise choice for the role but knew Hemmings from the past and was taxed with the job of streamlining at PNE.

Phil Brown was Preston manager between January 2011 and December 2011

The Lindsay and Ferguson dynamic was never one which worked or was going to work, Fergie sacked a year to the day since Irvine had been.

David Unsworth was handed the caretaker job, helped by Jamie Hoyland.

The first thing they had to contend with was Manchester United recalling three loan players back to Old Trafford.

Matt James, Ritchie de Laet and Josh King were summoned home as Sir Alex Ferguson showed his displeasure at his son’s dismissal.

Graham Westley at his unveiling as Preston North End manager in January 2012

The following day, Stoke City did likewise with loanees Michael Tonge and Danny Pugh.

Phil Brown was the choice to replace Ferguson, the only man interviewed for the job.

The rot had set in long before his arrival and Brown was unable to prevent PNE being relegated after 11 years in the second tier.

Brown’s quest to guide North End back to the Championship at the first attempt started promisingly, with them winning seven league games in a row through August and September.

When injuries ripped the attack apart and exposed the threadbare nature of the squad, things went downhill.

For a third December in a row, PNE wielded the sack with Brown potted.

Simon Grayson was in charge at PNE for four years and four months, guiding them to promotion in May 2015 at Wembley

The man swinging the axe this time was Peter Ridsdale, brought in as ‘chairman of football’ to replace Lindsay who stepped down for health reasons.

Ridsdale had been in post for just a fortnight before deciding Brown was toast.

Graham Westley was the choice to take over and the next 13 months were eventful to say the least.

The squad was given an overhaul, the big earners discarded – some of them banished to train at a gym in Rossendale in a bid to persuade them to leave.

Westley lasted until February 2013, the end for him coming in a cafe at Waterloo Station during a meeting with Ridsdale.

His replacement Simon Grayson brought stability to the manager’s office and indeed success on the pitch.

After stabilising them in the remainder of 2012/13, Grayson took PNE to the play-off semi-finals in 2014.

A year later, North End laid the play-off hoodoo to rest – their ‘la decima’ as they won at the 10th attempt.

They beat Swindon 4-0 at Wembley, three weeks after throwing away the chance to get automatic promotion at Colchester.

Jermaine Beckford scored a hat-trick, Paul Huntington got the other on a glorious late afternoon under the Wembley arch.

Grayson remained at the helm for then first two seasons in the Championship, guiding PNE to an 11th place finish in both.

Just as preparations for the third campaign at this level were about to start, Grayson walked out to join Sunderland.

Ridsdale had Alex Neil in post inside a week and it is the Scotsman who is trying to lead North End up to the Premier League.

They finished seventh in his first season, then 14th last May – sliding off the play-off pace in the last eight games.

The Lilywhites sit in sixth place going into the final game of the decade against Reading.

Will 2020 be the year when the club finally get to sample life in the Premier League?

Can Alex Neil lead PNE into the Premier League as the calendar moves into the next decade?