Tom Sandells' press view: An exciting time to be the Preston North End writer

As I write this, I am coming to the end of my first week in the role as the Preston North End writer at the Lancashire Post.

By Tom Sandells
Saturday, 25th June 2022, 6:00 am

It is a job I am very proud to have and I’m delighted to be given the opportunity to step up into the role.

For the past two-and-a-half years I have been in a more junior role, taking on responsibilities for covering Fleetwood Town during the week and PNE where possible, though I have always been covering North End on matchdays.

Before going on, I must say my congratulations to my predecessor Dave Seddon on his new job and for a fantastic stint as the go-to man for anything PNE. His reporting was always excellent and he was a pleasure to work alongside as we travelled the country together covering the Lilywhites.

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PNE writer Tom Sandells alongside former writer Dave Seddon.

A great bloke that now gets to watch Ryan Lowe’s side push for promotion with his lad, after 13 years in his post at the Post. It’s a tough act to follow but a challenge I’m looking forward to.

I’m certainly not new to North End, whether that be in the media or the club itself. I’m a Preston boy, have lived here my whole life and of course have been a fan of my hometown team since the age of three when my dad took me to my first game, at home to Barnsley.

There was no better preparation for a life as a North Ender - they lost 2-1.

As a Prestonian, I went to school in Penwortham, then Hutton and went to the University of Central Lancashire to get my journalism degree.

PNE writer Tom Sandells supporting North End as they played Derby County in the play-offs in 2005.

In my time going through school there were also a few PNE season tickets, some with my family and some with my mates from school as I got too cool to sit with my dad and grandad. Initially sat on the Sir Tom Finney Stand, most of my early memories of North End are admittedly food related, getting a couple of quid each game from my grandad to go and get a pie at the 15 minute mark when the queues had died down and then the first big disappointment, Cardiff.

I have an image etched into my mind of scattered peanuts all around the exits to the Millennium Stadium, as they had been given out for free earlier, mixed with the crushing despair that North End were so close to being in the top flight.

Non-food related however, Paul McKenna running the midfield in PR1, Ricardo Fuller dancing through defences and Graham Alexander having ice in his veins also stand out to me from my youngest years. As well as the torment Ade Akinbiyi and Robbie Blake caused, with Burnley the main derby at that time.

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Typically, heartbreak is a theme throughout my time as a PNE fan, first the 2005 play-off final, and then Leeds United the following season.

A few years later I was at Bramall Lane (equipped with my inflatable banana bought from the club shop to help with the sea of yellow North End were after in the away end) as Sheffield United prevailed in the play-off semi-final .

Relegation came just a couple of seasons later with a bit of a longer wait before success, and of course a bit more heartbreak first.

I travelled to the New York Stadium for the play-off semi-final in 2014 with my dad and there was a great atmosphere on the club’s coach before the game – afterwards, silence. When Paul Gallagher scored the opening goal of the game, despite not being favourites, I really did think PNE had promotion within their reach, backing them to beat Leyton Orient who were favourites in the other semi, though it was not to be.

Wembley however, was everything you’d dream of as a PNE fan. It all seemed too easy in getting there when Chesterfield were professionally taken care of away, before the 3-0 win at home – taking my chance to run onto the pitch at Deepdale afterwards.

I remember the disbelief in the stands under the arch, surely not? It can’t have been this easy to win the play-offs all this time, where has this been?

They are the moments that give me the passion to do this job to the level of my predecessors and to give the fans the best service possible as their local newspaper.

Despite being a fan, I am fully aware of the importance that this role has. I may well be the first port of call for fans with quesitons about their club or looking for news, match reports or insights. That is not lost on me.

I delivered the Lancashire Evening Post, as it was then, for my first job at 13 – for £9.50 a week! – and I know how much a staple it is to so many people’s lives.

I am only the fifth person in the last 50 years to be given the chance to follow the Lilywhites up and down the country and to be lucky enough to be paid for the pleasure.

It’s such an exciting time for the club, Ryan Lowe is clearly building something at Deepdale and it is an infectious period. The more time goes on the more that those watching on want to be involved and that showed with the season card sales.

Hopefully there will be a promotion to write about in my first season in the role.