The Big Interview: Mickey Worswick

To this day the legendary Harry McNally insists there is no better judge of a professional footballer than canny Preston scout Mickey Worswick.

And the colourful narrative of Worswick's secret dossier which sent North End spinning to a madcap 6-3 Deepdale defeat remains a firm McNally favourite on the after-dinner circuit and one etched into Deepdale folklore.

"I was working for BAC and the trade union had organised a meeting at Deepdale during the day to vote on a pay rise," recalled Mickey.

"So there I was, stood on the Town End terrace, when suddenly through a forest of hands and arms I could see North End's first team emerging on to the Deepdale pitch.

"I was Chester's chief scout and they were due at Deepdale the following day!

"I couldn't believe it. I never thought in a million years they'd be training at the same time as the meeting. Suddenly, they started going through all their set piece routines, corners, free-kicks, with Tommy Booth and Brian Kidd barking out the tactics they were going to use.

"I was voting for a pay rise with one hand, and scribbling down the Preston team with the other.

"When I reported back to Harry a few hours later, he thought all his birthdays had come at once. He was going 'Mickey, Mickey, I don't believe this. This is incredible, and beautiful music to my ears'.

"Chester scored six at Deepdale and Stuart Rimmer, a local lad from Southport, blasted a hat-trick on his 21st birthday. Harry still talks about that game and giggles about it every time I see him.

"I've always been a huge North End fan but they might take my season ticket off me when they hear about this!"

These days, the former Catholic College lad sits in the Bill Shankly Stand, willing Craig Brown's men on 25 years since that unlikely soccer subterfuge sent Preston on that slippery slope towards the agony of re-election.

"I was with Preston as a striker for two years before the 1964 FA Cup final and it is one of my biggest disappointments that I didn't play in the first team because I was a Moor Nook boy and a Proud Prestonian.

"North End was always my first love and I still remember going into to see Jimmy Milne, the manager, and asking if he was going to sign me.

"In a broad Scottish accent, he just said 'not at the moment, son.' It was a blow but I got over it."

There's a thousand memories stored away, though, like the frantic mid-season training break on the Spanish Riviera – 72 hours before Wigan's Third Division date at Preston in October 1984.

Forget space-age diets, warm-downs, and pasta and chicken dishes, McNally had his charges doing overtime in the golden mile of bars and restuarants.

"We were in a bar and a couple of attractive girls arrived at the next table," said Mickey, who was then employed as Wigan's scout. "Suddenly, one of them asked the goalkeeper Roy Tunks what we were doing in Spain.

"Without hesitation, Roy explained that we were the Lancashire Motorcycle Police Display Team and, pointing to Alex Bruce, said he is the best stuntman in Lancashire.

"The girls were mightily impressed and Tunksy was too until one of them asked to see his police ID card. Quick as a flash, Roy produced his Springfield Park car park pass and stuck it back in his wallet.

"They were not convinced and you should have seen Tunksy's face when one of the girls produced a Cheshire Police WPC pass out of her handbag. We just fell about in absolute hysterics and they did too.

"Wigan flew home 24 hours later and they beat North End 3-2 at Deepdale – and Alex scored two goals."

Worswick's roller-coaster football excursion has spanned 40 years now. He kicked off his career as a promising amateur at Blackburn, before spells with North End, Burscough, Skelmersdale and Chorley before lending his vast experience to Wigan Athletic's charge towards the Football League in the 1970s.

"We reached the final of the FA Trophy against Scarborough and had some famous runs in the FA Cup, beating Shrewsbury, York and Sheffield Wednesday.

"We drew Birmingham City in the FA Cup at St Andrews. Trevor Francis was playing and we just didn't do ouselves justice. We lost 3-0 and we were terribly disappointed.

"After the game, though, the dressing room door swung open and Birmingham's manager Sir Alf Ramsey walked in.

"He just said hold your heads up gentlemen, you were a credit to your club and the supporters.

"That was a man who had won the World Cup with England 12 years earlier and that made me so proud.

"I had seven wonderful years at Wigan, but I also had one of the shortest Football League careers on record.

"Wigan had just got into the league at the expense of Southport and I was on the bench when Ian McNeil said 'right Mick, I want you to change the game'.

"We were 1-0 down with 13 minutes left against Newport County. We ended up losing 3-0, so I did change the game. That was the beginning and the end of my league career."

Mickey also collected international honours when he was chosen for the England Amateur international squad against Italy and there was a marvellous journey in the Amateur Cup as tiny Skelmersdale United went all the way to Wembley in the 1967 FA Amateur Cup.

"We were from the Lancashire Combination and reaching Wembley against all the odds was an incredible football fairytale. We played Enfield in the final at Wembley in front of 75,000 fans and most of Skelmersdale was there.

"The former Liverpool and Scotland centre-forward Ian St John was our part-time coach and we were managed by a guy called Bernie Banks, a local part-time professional with Wigan.

"He was immensely popular with the players and became a legend because of his lucky pea-green suit which he wore throughout the cup run.

"Unfortunately, Alan Bermingham missed a penalty in the last minute of extra time and we were beaten 3-0 in front of 55,000 in the replay at Maine Road.

"I look at the modern game, though, and I do marvel at strikers like Thierry Henry and Michael Owen, but I believe you are born with that special instinct and you can't coach it.

"Alex Bruce was a classic example of that – a marvellous instinctive striker – yet I've seen boys locally who had that instinct and never got the breaks.

"There was a boy called Mick Borwick from Preston who scored thousands of goals locally, but was never picked up by a professional club," he added.

"I loved every second of my career, playing and scouting, but my greatest wish now would be to see Preston North End reach the Premiership."