Why Preston North End's game against Hull City in the Championship is so anticipated
Saturday’s game against Hull City will be a much anticipated game for Preston North End on multiple levels.
For one, it is the return of league football to Preston. North End opened their season with a 0-0 draw with Wigan Athletic last week, where they were not at their best.
There does not need to be a forensic analysis of why that was the case, but with a sellout of 4,700 supporters making the trip, a 0-0 was hardly one to get the blood pumping – even if the whole 90 was a pure battle.
Lilywhites’ fans have so far been limited to just a couple of friendlies and an open training session – followed by a two-and-a-half hour wait if you were unfortuante enough to be at the back of the line to meet the players, with a very well behaved six-year-old – to whet their whistle when it comes to home action.
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For many, with the added spending of a season card, it may have kept them away from friendlies as they have 23 plus home games to come.
But it now does feel like it is time for everything to come together.
There will be just short of 12,000 season ticket holders, added onto that just under 1,500 travelling from Hull and then however many more turn up on the day for the first game back at Deepdale.
It is also the first time for many to see the new PNE kit in all its glory, to see new players and everything that comes with the excitement of a new campaign.
Thousands of pounds have been raised by fans, in the middle of a cost of living crisis, to give back to the club and to help generate a better atmosphere for home games.
In total, there will be over 1000 flags for use by all and any fans - 50 large PNE wavers and over 900 medium wavers and also up to 16 giant wavers that can be used on Saturday for the first time.
It was backed by fans, businesses, the club and even Alan Browne and to see it all come together is very exciting.
No matter what, that is exceptionally commendable by anyone who donated whatever they could or helped to organise the efforts.
Manager Ryan Lowe and captain Browne have spoken of late that they have been aware of what the fans have been doing all summer, like all connected with North End they watched the number of season tickets rise and rise as the summer went on during the early bird offer.
The club put on a deal to get supporters in, the supporters responded by blowing previous season ticket sales out of the water.
The supporters have now, with a bit of help from the club, made giant steps to try to create a better atmosphere for home games, and the club must back that up too.
The mutual relationship of those on and off the pitch in recent months has been one of the biggest and best changes around North End.
There are two ways to back up the fans’ support. The first is regardless of anything else, see full commitment and passion for their side – which is generally a given – and also wins. Wins of course are a bit harder to come by but a winning side no matter of anything else will always please.
The second would be to finalise the summer transfers. There are just a couple more pieces to fit into place for Lowe’s jigsaw of his squad this summer and the sooner that is done the better.
I know first hand the anxiety and tension in the fanbase surrounding transfers – or a potential lack of, though that is not likely – and how afraid fans are of the same old happening again.
This is a new start for PNE it seems, since Lowe took charge, and though it may not be comfortable or ideal, time must be given to get deals done right.
Does that mean square pegs in round holes? Maybe, but it should not be for long. If PNE find themselves in that situation long term – beyond these next few weeks as the transfer window remains open – they risk losing some of the ground they have made up with those that come through the turnstiles.
A commitment has been made by supporters in putting their money in up front for the season cards in the expectation, and hope, that it will be spent in part on the playing squad.
So far, six signings is nothing to be taken lightly, although there were some key areas vacant, but just that added couple, in line with what the manager has clearly been saying he wants, will finish off the job nicely.
The joke of a World Cup coming in November has made things look worse than they appear in terms of there being seven games between the start of the season and the end of the transfer window, but in reality, compared to previous seasons, business is being done quite similarly.
There are players out there now who have only just stopped getting paid having been released – due to an extra month’s severance pay that all players are entitled to – so that will change the free transfers market.
The Premier League season is about to begin, once some of the big boys start poorly and panic buying, it will have a knock on effect further down the pyramid.
There is still plenty to be done and that needs to be done, but also time to do it. Lowe has enough in his squad at the moment to get results but to really push on, be ambitious and challenge for those top places, there needs to be more.
They are working on it, that is not that they are happy with where they are at nor looking to pocket what they can, but there is increasing anxiety as the summer progresses.
Instead, for 90 minutes, we can focus on the famous PNE being back at Deepdale for another stab at it. The excellent efforts supporters have gone to to make it a memorable experience and hopefully the first three points of the season.