Red jumpers for goalposts at PNE

Gary Peters was appointed Preston manager 20 years ago
Gary Peters was appointed Preston manager 20 years ago
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It is twenty years ago this week that Gary Peters was given the Preston North End manager’s job, an appointment which kicked off a successful era at Deepdale.

On December 2, 1994, John Beck was shown the door five days short of his second anniversary in the Lilywhites hotseat.

Peters, who had been Beck’s assistant at Cambridge and then North End, stepped up immediately to become boss.

There was no ‘sack now, think later’ tactics from the PNE board – Peters someone they had identified as having the ability to move things on after Beck’s eventful reign.

Fans wondered whether the No.2 becoming the No.1 was a clean enough break in the management chain.

History proved it was, Peters going on to guide Preston to the play-offs that season and then to Third Division title glory the following campaign.

In the few weeks leading up to Beck’s exit, Peters had been a big figure behind the scenes as Beck took something of a back-seat role as he reflected on a tough spell in charge.

During September and October of 1994, PNE had lost seven successive league games under Beck, a run which piled on the pressure.

Wins over Mansfield, Blackpool in the FA Cup and Northampton steadied the ship, although Peters had been the unofficial driving force behind them.

The end for Beck – and the beginning for Peters – came on a Friday morning, the eve of an FA Cup tie with Walsall.

While acknowledging how he and Beck had worked well as a team at Cambridge and Preston, Peters quickly declared, ‘I’m not John Beck’s twin brother’.

As he prepared for his first training session in charge, Peters said: “We will be playing a lot more football from now on.

“I think it is time we went our separate ways and I showed what I can do.

“John and me are two completely different blokes with different ideas on how the game should be played.

“I have learned a lot from John and I will always regard him as a good friend.

“But I’m not his twin brother, regardless of how people want to tar us with the same brush.”

Peters saw his first game end in a 1-1 draw, Allan Smart netting Preston’s goal against Walsall at Deepdale.

Although they were soundly beaten 4-0 in the replay, in the league they won four matches on the bounce.

Their form over the second half of the season was strong, Peters signing a young 
David Beckham on loan for a month.

They ran out of steam in the play-offs, losing both semi-final legs 1-0 to Bury.

However, the next season PNE swept their way in style to the Third Division title.

Under Peters in his trademark red jersey, North End consolidated in the Second Division in 1996/97, then in January 1998 he stepped aside for his No.2 David Moyes to take the reins.

He had a spell in charge of the club’s centre of excellence and returned to management at Exeter City towards the end of the 2002/03 season.

The Grecians lost only three of their 13 games under Peters but that could not save them from relegation.

Peters, now 60, had three-and-a-half years in charge of Shrewsbury and remains in the game as a scout.