Preston North End team of the decade: explained

Preston North End celebrate winning promotion from League One at Wembley.
Preston North End celebrate winning promotion from League One at Wembley.

When you're tasked with picking just 11 players from an entire decade, you're always going to have to leave one or two out.

When Dave Seddon and I went through our team, some of it seemed pretty self explanatory but we also felt that we wanted to give a better explanation of why we chose who did, in a bigger space than we were afforded in the picture based format we used.

So, I'm going to go through the team one by one and explain why them, and why not somebody else.

If you missed the team itself, it's here.
Firstly, it's worth prefacing that generally, we judged players on what they did this decade for PNE, so players like Graham Alexander and David Nugent who had their best years in the 'noughties' were discounted.

Goalkeeper

When it came to goalkeepers we felt there were only really three options.

There was the eventual choice of Jordan Pickford, Declan Rudd and Andrew Lonergan to consider, all who have done very good jobs in PR1.

Lonergan only really played six months with North End and Rudd could have also been a choice to be in the team.

In the end, we had to go with Pickford.

Even in his short spell at the club, he was generally a class above, he was kicking with pinpoint accuracy on either foot, had a commanding presence about him in his area and was still only 21.

He was an international just a year after leaving Deepdale and was recalled initially by Sam Allardyce, going swiftly into the Sunderland first team in the Premier League.

Honourable Mentions: Declan Rudd, Andrew Lonergan.

Defence

Some of these choices were no-brainers, Tom Clarke is right back having been with the club throughout most of the decade and captaining the club to promotion at Wembley.

He put the ball in the Blackpool net and has been very reliable wherever he has played, he's a massive presence in the changing room and is as tough as they come.

Paul Huntington alongside him can share many of the compliments, he's been a commanding presence at the hear of the PNE back line for the last eight years.

'The Cumbrian Cannavaro' is beloved by North End fans as is the skipper, with 15 years combined service, they were always going to be selected.

Alongside 'Hunts' is Ben Davies, the first choice that has come on pure quality.

Though he hasn't been in the side too long, in his third season, he is arguably the best central defender we have seen at Deepdale in quite some time.

His is never over-awed by the situation, is extremely calm and composed on the ball and can't be bullied either.

Few defenders are a complete package but with Davies' pace, technical ability, reading of a game and willingness to get stuck in, he's very close.

Him being left footed is a nice bonus too.

Lastly, at left back is Greg Cunningham, who was a smart pick up on a free transfer from Bristol City.

Cunningham quickly established himself on the left side of North End's back line and was a big miss when he was ever unavailable.

He would offer an attacking outlet down the left but was also reliable in defence, he was a big part, alongside Clarke and Huntington, in establishing PNE back in the Championship before moving to Cardiff for £4m last summer.

Honourable Mentions: Darnell Fisher, Sean St Ledger, Bailey Wright, Scott Laird.

Midfield

I'm going to start with the most controversial pick, Tom Barkhuizen on the right side of midfield.

We fully understand the want for Aiden McGeady to be in the side, and this was the position we had the most discussion on, but we felt Barkhuizen just edged him.

This was more my pick than Dave's, but I went off stats a little bit as well as how long he's been doing it now.

McGeady was sensational in his season in Preston, one of very few players in memory that had the ability to create something form absolutely nothing and win or change a game in a moment.

Tom Barkhuizen joined the club and was an instant and surprise hit, winning both Championship player of the month and goal of the month in his first six months, scoring six and setting up three in 17 games as he stepped up from League Two.

He's been the go-to man for managers since his arrival for his diligence in defence, and then for his blistering pace.

If his run recently at home to Barnsley didn't show it, he can be unplayable at time - with an eye for the spectacular like his goal against Blackburn Rovers.

The midfield pair is as predictable as it comes but they simply have to be in there: Paul Gallagher and Ben Pearson.

'Gally' seems timeless, having initially joined on loan in League One, he's played wide in midfield and has settled into his 'quarterback' role in Alex Neil's side.

His ability to pick passes is sorely missed when he's not involved and he often ranks very highly for key passes, especially in the opposition half.

Then comes the set pieces, a sensational delivery, Gallagher has turned games on their head over the past seven years, either from crosses or direct free kicks. Not to mention his trademark penalties.

Another leader in this side, alongside Tom Clarke and Paul Huntington, Gallagher will go down as a PNE legend.

Next to the grace of Gallagher is the industry of Ben Pearson.

Similar to Ben Davies, he's one the best we've seen at Deepdale for some time; the industry is not in favour of quality on the ball, far from it.

Pearson has shown time and time again that he is capable of controlling games, he puts out fires in front of the back line, is deceptively quick and never over complicates.

He's a perfect foil to Gallagher, collecting the ball and supplying his partner to make the incisions.

His disciplinary record aside, which has improved a lot of late, there's barely been a drawback to his game since his emergence following a 2-0 win over Aston Villa at Deepdale.

On the left is Callum Robinson, the most recent player to depart, leaving to the Premier League for £7m to Sheffield United.

Probably the player to have developed the most whilst at Deepdale, he had his critics at times but proved all of them wrong and was a key player for PNE just prior to his move.

Able to play all the way across the front line, Robinson spent half of the decade at Preston and scored 12 times, despite missing months, in his final campaign.

He had progressed to be one of the best forwards int he division and capable of making something out of nothing with his tireless work ethic, shown in the opening goal against Ipswich Town back in April.

​Honourable Mentions: Aiden Mcgeady, John Welsh.

Strikers

Another area of the pitch where there could only really be two choices.

Joe Garner and Jermaine Beckford's goal scoring exploits will long be remembered as the pair helped fire PNE up from League One, breaking the play-off curse, and into the Championship.

Jordan Hugill was another possible inclusion and he did deliver in the Championship for PNE, that Beckford and Garner could not, but the form of the pair we chose just couldn't be ignored.

Joe Garner was signed from Watford and took a little while to get going, but once he did, he really did.

Garner hit 24 and 27 goals in all competitions as Preston reached the play-off semi final and the final, winning player of the year in League One in 2015.

His celebration in winning a corner at Wembley still gets replayed now and alongside him on the day, and taking most of the headlines, was Beckford.

Simply a brilliant January loan signing, banging in 18 goals in just 31 games including that treble under the arch.

Garner's volley in the play-off semi final will be many peoples favourite goal, but Beckford's 40-yarder against Chesterfield to seal North End's place at Wembley will run it close.

It was a pair that worked perfectly and massively contributed to getting PNE to where they are now.

Honourable Mentions: Jordan Hugill.