PNE’s time is now says Grayson

Centre-half Paul Huntington is Preston Supporters' Group's player of the year
Centre-half Paul Huntington is Preston Supporters' Group's player of the year
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Simon Grayson is strong in his belief that Preston North End are set up to be a Championship club but says it is at Wembley tomorrow where they must ultimately prove that.

PNE take on Swindon in the League One play-off final for the prize of promotion to the second tier of English football.

This is very much a second chance for North End after automatic promotion slipped from their grasp on the final day of the regular season.

They will have more 22,000 fans with them in London, all willing Grayson’s men to book a Championship return after four seasons in League One.

Grayson said: “This is a fantastic club and ever since I joined nearly two-and-a-half years ago, it has done everything possible to make me welcome and help me be successful.

“Everything is in place for Championship football – the infrastructure, training ground, people behind the scenes, the fact it is debt-free, the fantastic supporters.

“All those different things can contribute to being a Championship team but ultimately, we have got to go to Wembley and do things right there.

“We have no given right to win because of things off the pitch – we have got to do the job on the field of play.

“There are a lot of people who deserve to be in the Championship and hopefully we can give them that tomorrow evening.

“There has been a buzz around Preston and I’m sure there has been a buzz around Swindon too.

“This is an opportunity for both clubs to try and get into the Championship and hopefully it is a northern club celebrating.”

It has been a long build-up to the final, with a fortnight between PNE’s semi-final win over Chesterfield and Wembley.

There has been the usual scramble for tickets, travel issues surrounding the on-off rail strike and even the drama of an unexploded Second World War bomb being found in the vicinity of Wembley!

At last, the focus can be trained exclusively on PNE’s battle with the Robins.

Grayson took the full squad to London yesterday afternoon by train, with the players going through their last preparations at Brentford’s training ground today.

The Lilywhites manager is confident of his team handling the big occasion, that despite the club’s well-documented play-off record and the events in Colchester three weeks ago.

“We have played in some big games during my time at the club,” said Grayson.

“We had the Manchester United FA Cup tie, the game with Blackpool and several other tough matches.

“There are players in our squad who have played in the Premier League and at the highest level.

“We have got younger ones who haven’t played above this level but their youthful exuberance can play a part.

“Our build-up has been good, we have worked hard as well as giving the players the chance to freshen up.

“We go to Wembley with the belief we are a good team which can be successful.

“People will point to our play-off record but as I have said all along, records are there to be broken.

“Hopefully this will be our year and I’ll be telling the players to make sure they leave everything on the pitch and give every last drop of effort.”

At the end of training yesterday, central defender Paul Huntington was presented with the Preston Supporters’ Group player of the year award.

Midfielder Daniel Johnson got the young player of the year award, with Thorsten Stuckmann named personality of the year.