Ahead of tomorrow's eagerly anticipated clash with Preston, Keith Ingham spoke with Lilywhites fan and EPL Index host James Vickers about this season, last years successes and ridiculous transfers.
How long have you followed PNE?
Where to start? coming from a family of Manchester United fans, it was quite a late introduction to North End. I can remember watching the 2005 play-off final on TV while I was on holiday in France and something just clicked. Ultimately it was a disappointing day for North End with Bobby Zamora breaking our hearts, but since then I’ve religiously followed us.
Who have been your favourite players? Past or Present?
From the game above, and I’m sure most Preston fans around my age would agree, I always loved David Nugent while he was with us. He’s the last North End player to have played for England and his name is still sung on the terraces today. One of my early North End memories was watching him in the play-off semi-final at Elland Road where he took on nearly the entire Leeds team to score one of my favourite ever Preston goals! (had to bring that up!)
As for current players, Ben Pearson without a shadow of a doubt. The lad is everything you could want in a midfielder, and he isn’t afraid to put himself about. Last season he ended up on 18 bookings which shows you the kind of player he is. He’s the perfect example of the saying, “if he’s in your team you love him, if he’s in the opposition you hate him.”
With an impressive performance last season; Do you expect to better it this term with a serious challenge for the top six?
The two seasons that we have been back we have done really well but faded off towards the end of the season. This year we have a more attack minded coach and a squad full of exciting talented players. If we can keep the group together and maybe add a bit of quality in defence I can definitely see us making a real push for the play offs this year, and who knows where it will take us!
Your thoughts on Simon Grayson and Jermaine Beckford leaving the club in the summer?
Beckford was the first to go having been announced at the end of our last game last season, he was a fantastic player for us in league one and almost single handily got us promoted. The last two seasons though he has been in and out of the squad with injuries, and if still here he would more than likely be 3rd or 4th choice, I think him leaving and going to bury is a good move for all parties.
Grayson was a tough one when it first broke. He was a fantastic manager for us and I don’t have a bad word to say about him. He obviously felt that Sunderland was a fresh challenge and that he could ultimately have more success there. In a way its worked out for us as we now have a brilliant young manager in Alex Neil who also has experience of getting promoted for the Championship. Time will tell if we will miss Grayson.
Are you happy with the appointment of Alex Neil and your recruitment this summer?
As I mentioned above I’m very happy with Alex Neil. From what we have seen so far he is a forward thinking coach who is trying to get the team to play attractive attacking football, he has great experience for such a young coach and the squad seem to have bought into his philosophy very early on which is definitely a good thing.
The recruitment has been mixed so far. We have brought in Josh Harrop and Sean Maguire from Manchester United and Cork respectively and both look like they will make fantastic additions to the squad in the forward department. We have managed to sign Declan Rudd, a crowd favourite from when we had him on loan from Norwich a few seasons ago, and now we have two goalkeepers who would be most teams number one, so that’s a real positive.
My only concern is that we are a bit short at centre back and that we don’t seem to be linked to anyone. Ideally we would’ve had someone sorted by now but with a few weeks to go in the transfer window, im more than confident that we will address the issue and get someone in.
Name a player from your squad you expect good things from in 2017/18?
I think the obvious one would be Sean Maguire who we have signed from Cork. He was scoring for fun for them last season and has looked really sharp since coming into our group a few weeks ago. I can certainly see him getting a handful of goals this season so he is a player to watch out for.
The other one is a new loan signing called Stephy Mavididi who we have brought in from Arsenal. From clips I have seen he looks to be in a similar mould to Tammy Abraham so if he is half of the player that Tammy was for Bristol last season then we can expect good things from him!
Who's your tip for the Championship title?
Quick plug here, but on the Championship Round Table podcast for @EPLIdex that I am hosting this season, we talked about this last week. I can certainly see Fulham being up there. I think tying down Ryan Sessegnon and Tom Cairney is a real statement of intent from them and with the addition of players like Oliver Norwood I think that they will be one of the teams to beat.
Who are your three to go down?
As with title winners we also discussed relegation candidates. I think Bolton and Burton will be in the mix, Bolton as they seem to be in the news for all the wrong reasons at the moment and Burton due to not having the squad depth. For the third team I would probably say Milwall, with it being their first season back I think the pressure will be on so it will certainly be interesting to see how they get on.
Neymar: Ridiculous or the going rate for a player these days?
I think that the amount of money is completely ridiculous but as we’ve seen throughout the last couple of summers, the money in football these days at the top level is staggering.
If Neymar can help PSG to win the champions league, which ultimately is what he has been brought in for, then it would be money well spent. In terms of the fee though, yeah its completely ridiculous.
What's your Prediction and Scorers for Saturday's match?
I can definitely see both teams scoring and would take a draw if offered to me at the moment. It will be interesting to see how AN lines up away from home as that was always one of Grayson’s strong points. If you were to ask me now I would go for 2-2, with Chris Wood and Sean Magurie both getting on the score sheet.
We'd like to thank James for taking the time to do our interview and wish him the best of luck for the season. You can keep in touch with James on the follow platforms:
I also write for @DeepdaleDigest and host the @EPLIndex Championship podcast every Monday.
By Keith Ingham