A die-hard Preston North End fan is proudly representing his beloved Lilywhites over in the States.
Since moving to New Jersey in 2005, Matt Higgins and John Ryding have formed their own PNE supporters group and adorned a famous New York pub with club memorabilia.
The 32-year-old university ‘soccer’ coach formed the New York Northenders eight years ago with John Ryding, another life-long Preston fan, and since then has formed a Preston Supports’ Club to watch all of the club’s televised games.
“My whole family grew up in Fulwood and although I was born in Chester I have always been a huge Preston fan,” he said.
“It’s hard being away from home especially being such a big Preston fan but it’s great when we all order a big English breakfast and watch the games together.”
Matt says his love of North End comes from his father Mark Higgins, and says it was him who inspired his move across the pond.
After his contract with Macclesfield Town was up in 2005, a 20-year-old Matt decided to join UK Soccer Elite to coach in America.
Now 12 years on Matt is the head goalkeeping coach at Fordham University in New York, and runs his own soccer training program at the Wyckoff YMCA in New Jersey and says he loves the PNE community he’s built up.
“The bar we watch games in is called the Football Factory opposite the Empire State Building,” he said.
“We have our own little corner with signed shirts, Joe Garner’s framed boots and scarfs where we all get together to watch the games.
“New York Northerners has both Americans and English fans for it and whenever Preston fans come on holiday here we always gets lots of tweets so we meet up for a pint and watch the game.”
Matt is close with a few Preston players past and present. On his last visit to Preston he brought PNE midfielder John Welsh’s children some American football shirts and in January hosted former North End striker Joe Garner for a few days.
“My old company sponsored Scott Laird a few years ago and since then I’ve become friends with quite a few of them. I always love going back to Preston and always work it around the games.”
Living in a town called Hawthorne, 30 minutes from New York, with his wife Daniela Maddaloni Higgins, the couple have just brought a baby daughter in the world - Stella Lina Higgins.
And Matt says big family events often come around when Preston play one particular team.
“The day after she was born, Preston beat Birmingham 2-1,” he said. “Big events for the Higgins’ always seem to be when we play Birmingham, not to mention that amazing night vs the Brummies, in the play off second leg.
“I was a programmer seller at the time, and my dad, grandma and brothers were all in the Tom Finney stand, as soon as Paul Mckenna scored that penalty, I was straight on the pitch and then straight over to my family where of course we all shed a tear, it was a great night for all Preston fans.
“For example when my dear grandma Dorothy Higgins, passed away in 2006, who was also a huge Preston fan, PNE played Birmingham a few days after her passing, but my brothers, my uncle and I all went to St Andrews that day as I knew she would want us at the match.”
And Matt believes North End fans have lots to look forward to next season.
We’re in a great spot with Simon Grayson, and his staff, I really feel next year is the year we get promoted,” he said. “Keeping Aiden McGeady is a huge step towards that promotion, if he signs, it will open the door for other marque signings. I think we will finish fourth, we have come so close this past year, but we need a 20 goal a season striker, a ‘Sean Gregan like’ midfielder, and a new centre back.”