PNE players deserve Dave Seddon’s press view

John Welsh
John Welsh
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Sorry seems to be the hardest word.

In among the dropping of points by Preston over the last couple of weeks has been the good news that five of the squad are no longer suspects in a well-publicised spot-fixing investigation.

John Welsh, Keith Keane, David Buchanan, Ben Davies and Bailey Wright, together with former North Ender Graham Cummins, all had the finger of suspicion pointed at them last April.

For nine months this hung over them, probably feeling more akin to nine years.

Finally last week, the Crown Prosecution Service said the investigation had been dropped after deciding there was insufficient evidence.

The same decision applied to Rochdale midfielder Stephen Dawson who was arrested at the same time as the PNE players, so too six players arrested in December 2013 following claims made in a Sunday newspaper.

No doubt the relief felt by the lifting of the allegations was like a ton weight off their shoulders and would have been greeted with a mix of emotions.

One of those emotions I’m guessing is anger. Anger at how this turned into a nightmare lasting nine months.

There was some relief at the end of July when the players were told they were no longer subject to police bail or any arrest procedure.

Still it dragged on until well into January when finally the investigation was concluded and the CPS said ‘no’.

Is anyone saying sorry to them? Was there the need to handcuff John Welsh at home in front of his family?

Also, was there a need to name them following their arrest? Names were in the public domain within 12 hours or so of their detention.

Remember, they were only arrested and questioned before being bailed, never charged with any offence.

The sister paper of the Sunday edition which had run the original spot-fixing story, focused on some of the arrested Preston players being defenders.

‘You have no defence’ ran the headline, speculating if those players didn’t play then PNE could have been left short of numbers at the back.

But we also know that the word ‘defence’ is common in the legal world.

For good measure they used a wrong picture where one of Cummins should have been, that later to earn a former team-mate a tidy sum in libel damages.

If anything, the second ‘wave’ of arrests in this investigation – the one which saw the Preston players and Dawson questioned – attracted more publicity than that of the first set.

Names were named and cameras were trained on the players when they played their next game.

A PNE official told me this week that for two days after the arrests, the club had a new neighbour in the shape of a reporter from a national organisation who camped himself outside Deepdale.

Yet when the investigation was dropped, many of the media outlets who had gone so big on the story in April, did not even mention the names of the PNE players in their reports.

Clearly, a halted case is not as high on their news agenda as arrests.

It would be nice if someone said sorry to these lads, at least acknowledge with some humility what they have been through.

On a lighter note, the Twitter arm-wrestle between PNE and fanatical fans of One Direction has been amusing to watch from the sidelines.

Never did I think the loan signing of a goalkeeper would cause such a stampede of emotion from girls who scream themselves silly at the mere mention of Harry Styles.

We are bigger fans of Nobby Stiles in these parts thanks to the 1977/78 promotion season.

As for 1D, I’ll stick to Iron Maiden thank you!