Preston North End kept waiting for 5,000th game landmark - that should have come against Derby County this weekend

Preston right-back Darnell Fisher in action against Derby at Pride Park earlier in the seasonPreston right-back Darnell Fisher in action against Derby at Pride Park earlier in the season
Preston right-back Darnell Fisher in action against Derby at Pride Park earlier in the season | jpimedia
Preston North End had been due to play their 5,000th league game on Saturday, becoming the first club in English football to do so.

The visit to Derby County to Deepdale was to have been the milestone, one to take great pride from.

Just imagine for a moment what might have been, Ben Pearson back fit after his hamstring injury crunching into Wayne Rooney early doors.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

No doubt more than a smattering of boos from the North End faithful aimed in Rooney’s direction – they won’t have forgotten his last visit to Preston when he went to ground a bit too easily to earn a penalty for Manchester United in the February 2015 FA Cup fifth round tie.

Wayne Rooney goes to ground to win a penalty playing for Manchester United against Preston at Deepdale in February 2015Wayne Rooney goes to ground to win a penalty playing for Manchester United against Preston at Deepdale in February 2015
Wayne Rooney goes to ground to win a penalty playing for Manchester United against Preston at Deepdale in February 2015 | jpimedia

In the technical area, Alex Neil would have been stood in his all grey PNE staff attire a few yards along the touchline from 101-cap Holland international Philip Cocu.

In the reverse fixture at Pride Park in November, it was Cocu who saw his side come out on top, the Rams beating PNE 1-0.

The opportunity to play the 5,000th game will come, it’s just a case of being patient and realising that health and welfare come first in trying to get through the pandemic.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Once action resumes, whether Derby will be the landmark game for North End, we don’t know.

PNE manager Alex Neil and Derby boss Philip Cocu at Pride Park in November 2019PNE manager Alex Neil and Derby boss Philip Cocu at Pride Park in November 2019
PNE manager Alex Neil and Derby boss Philip Cocu at Pride Park in November 2019 | jpimedia

If the current fixture list is resumed and played in order, it will.

However, there might be some re-jigging of the fixture list, an earlier midweek game perhaps squeezed in. But let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves.

North End have played 2,499 home league games and 2,498 away.

They have won 1,940 games, drawn 1,283 and lost 1,774.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad
PNE vice-chairman Derek Shaw receives a glass trophy from Bristol Rovers's Geoff Dunford to mark Preston's 4,000th league game in September 1998PNE vice-chairman Derek Shaw receives a glass trophy from Bristol Rovers's Geoff Dunford to mark Preston's 4,000th league game in September 1998
PNE vice-chairman Derek Shaw receives a glass trophy from Bristol Rovers's Geoff Dunford to mark Preston's 4,000th league game in September 1998 | jpimedia

In the league they have scored 7,398 goals and conceded 6,958 – a very healthy goal difference of plus 440!

PNE’s record win in the league is a 10-0 victory over Stoke on the opening day of the second league season in 1889. Four times they have shipped seven goals in a league game.

So what about the previous milestone games for North End?

Their first league game saw a 5-2 win over Burnley on September 8, 1888.

Jason Harris scores for Preston at Bristol Rovers in their 4,000th league game in September 1998Jason Harris scores for Preston at Bristol Rovers in their 4,000th league game in September 1998
Jason Harris scores for Preston at Bristol Rovers in their 4,000th league game in September 1998 | jpimedia

The 1,000th league game was a 3-0 defeat at Cardiff on February 14, 1922.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

North End’s 2,000th league game came in November 1952, Sir Tom Finney and Charlie Wayman scoring in a 2-1 win over Charlton at Deepdale.

League game 3,000 came in April 1976 at Rotherham, Gordon Coleman scoring in a 1-1 draw.

The 4,000th was a 2-2 draw against Bristol Rovers at the Memorial Ground in September 1998 – Michael Jackson and Jason Harris on target.

Now on 4,997, North End find themselves knocking on the door of the Premier League.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

When the fixtures were suspended, they were in sixth place with 56 points from 37 games.

In terms of consistency over the course of the season, this is their best campaign for a decade or so.

PNE’s form wasn’t good going into the enforced break, with four defeats in five games.

So how things play out when eventually the season resumes will be interesting.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Will the break halt the momentum of the teams who were in a bit better form?

Mind you, bar Leeds in second place who had won five on the bounce, none of the chasing pack were exactly breaking any pots in terms of results.

When action resumes, there is the possibility that games might be behind closed doors – to start with at least.

If the measures regarding large gatherings are still in place – no emergency services cover for example – clubs will have to play in empty grounds.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

That might have to be a concession football makes in order to get the season finished during the summer.

Hopefully we are in a better place by then and some sense of normality will have returned. But let’s not jump the gun.

The 2019/20 season is one which will certainly be looked back on in history as being ‘different’ to say the least.

War has twice halted the league programme, this time the modern enemy is an invisible one but extremely dangerous.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

In terms of the football, at least the English game has sung from the same hymn sheet in recent days.

There was an almost unanimous agreement to finish the season – just the odd exception.

That will protect the integrity of the EFL and Premier League, play to a finish and then breath a sigh of relief.

Talk of when to start next season is still premature, focus on getting this one to a climax and explore the options beyond that.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

In the meantime, clubs must cope the best they can with the shutdown.

Financially it is not going to be easy, in line with any other type of business at this time of crisis.

In terms of fitness and health, players need to be kept active without mixing for the time being.

Easier said than done, although the many videos of players juggling loo rolls show skills have not been lost!