Neil Trebble
Neil Trebble

Dave Seddon speaks to ex-Deepdale striker Neil Trebble who joined Preston North End in 1994 and had a rather bizarre start to life with the club after the team bus got stuck in heavy traffic

Getting changed into their playing kit on the team bus and arriving at the ground after the scheduled kick-off time was not how Preston North End had planned to start the 1994/95 season.

PNE's class of 1994/95 ' Trebble is on the back row, fourth from left

PNE's class of 1994/95 ' Trebble is on the back row, fourth from left

But when PNE got stuck in roadworks heading to The Feethams to play Darlington in August 1994, any sense of planning went out of the window.

Several players were due to make their competitive North End debuts that day, Neil Trebble being one of them.

Having arrived over the summer from Scunthorpe, the big frontman was keen to show what he was all about.

“That was an interesting start to life at Preston,” said Trebble as he cast his mind back 23 years.

“The coach got stuck in heavy traffic and meant we were not going to make it to Darlington for kick-off.

“Suddenly the coach stopped and the kit was brought out from underneath with us all having to get changed there and then.

“When we got to the ground, we ran in and near enough went straight out on to the pitch to play.

“It was a hot day, typical start of the season weather, and for the first 20 minutes you couldn’t catch your breath.

“We didn’t play particularly well as a team which wasn’t much of a surprise when you bear in mind the build-up.

“But we got a 0-0 draw which wasn’t that bad.”

Trebble’s stay with North End was a relatively short one.

Signed by John Beck, he was later deemed surplus to requirement by Gary 
Peters who succeeded Beck part-way through the 1994/95 season.

But he still has fond memories of his time at Deepdale.

Trebble scored a fine last-minute winner away to Fulham at Craven Cottage.

He was in the side which beat Blackpool 1-0 in the FA Cup in front of the Sky Sports cameras – it was a hook-on from Trebble which set Mike Conroy up for the goal on that windy Monday night.

Among his team-mates at North End was David Moyes, the signs there even then that Moyes was one day going to be a leader.

Trebble started adult life in the army, having six years in the Grenadier Guards.

“While in the army, I played football for the combined services team and for Stevenage who were then in the Diadora League,” said Trebble, who is now a father of four and grandad of five.

“Scunthorpe spotted me and paid me out of the army to become a full-time player when I was 24.

“I had a season with them and was doing okay.

“While I was there I got a bit of a thigh strain which the manager wanted me to rest.

“But I wanted to get some games under my belt and I played in a reserve game at Oldham.

“Unfortunately I twisted my ankle really badly and never really recovered from that – I still get jip from it to this day.

“I was out for a while and that summer I got invited to come on trial to Preston.

“Things went well, I did enough to earn a contract here.

“We had a front four then of Mark Sale – who was even taller than me – Gareth Ainsworth, Paul Raynor and myself.

“The first few fixtures of that season we played away because the grass was being allowed to bed-in at Deepdale after the plastic surface had come up. We played at Fulham in September and I scored the winner in injury time.

“Footage of the goal was put on Twitter recently and it is amazing how different a goal looks from the side of the pitch compared to how you remember it.

“I had a good touch and it was a good finish to be fair, what made it special was that it came in front of a large travelling support.

“After that game, we stayed down in London and went to play Gillingham on the Tuesday night, we won that one 3-2.”

The Blackpool cup tie a couple of months later was a particular highlight.

Deepdale was packed to see North End beat the 
Seasiders, who were the 
division above.

Said Trebble: “It was my clearance which created the goal that night.

“I’d like to say it was a very cultured ball but it was more of a hook forward, which Beck liked us doing.

“The Blackpool keeper misjudged the flight of the ball and Mickey Conroy ran in to knock it over him.

“That night we mixed things up a bit, played more football than we normally did under John Beck.

“Let’s just say a couple of senior players influenced that, saying if we didn’t beat Blackpool, we wouldn’t be able to walk the streets of Preston ever again!

“Not long after that, Beck left and Gary Peters took over.

“That was the end for me at Preston because Peters immediately left me out of the team.

“I thought that was harsh, we had Paul Mariner at the club doing some work with the strikers and he was saying how well I was doing and developing.

“After a few months playing in the reserves and training hard each day, I went on loan to Scarborough and it was only later I heard that offers had come in from higher-placed clubs.

“So it is fair to say that I don’t have a great fondness for Gary Peters.”