With COVID-19 bringing football to a grinding halt, there hasn’t really been much for fans to get excited about of late.
Supporters are forced to look back at the past rather than look to the future, as there has been little real indication of when football will return – even with the Football League aiming for the end of April.
So why not look back at some of the players who slipped through Preston’s net? We’ve picked out five former North End trialists who ended up heading elsewhere, with some weird and wonderful stories along the way…
Sigurdsson has been a Premier League star for the best part of a decade now, and even earned a huge £45million move to Everton in 2017, having been a hero at Swansea City. His English football career has seen him turn out for Reading, Swansea City, Tottenham and Everton, but it all could have been so different.
The Icelandic playmaker told Swansea’s official website in 2016 that he spent time on trial at Preston as a teenager after his brother sent clips to a number of clubs of him playing – but it was Reading who ended up signing Sigurdsson, in what has to go down as one of the biggest missed opportunities for Preston in recent memory.
Fowler’s goalscoring exploits at Liverpool are famed; he racked up 171 goals in 330 games for the Reds, having emerged through their youth ranks. After spells Leeds United and Manchester City, Fowler returned to Anfield as a veteran, and still managed 12 goals in 39 appearances before winding down his career. Fowler is a Liverpool legend, but he actually spent time with Preston too.
“All these blokes turned up at the house, asking us to go down and meet the manager because I was their number one target, which was a load of old bull, obviously, but pretty good to hear when you’re a kid,” said Fowler in his 2005 book ‘My Autobiography’. “My dad kept saying no, apart from Liverpool and Everton, and I did go along and have a look around both clubs, and funnily enough, I think I also went for a trial at Preston, for some reason. They offered me a place on the spot, but again, me dad said no,” he added.
Preston seemingly never really stood a chance of landing Fowler, but it’s clear that they at least made an effort to sign a player who went on to become a goal machine with Liverpool.
Some may remember Iwelumo as a regular goalscorer in the Championship, others for his comical miss for Scotland against Norway. He was impressive for Colchester United, Charlton Athletic and Wolverhampton Wanderers, and even scored two hat-tricks against North End – one in 2008 for Wolves, the other for Burnley in 2010.
Way back in 2000, Iwelumo was playing for Aarhus in Denmark, and given that his agent was Kenny Moyes – the brother of then-Preston boss David Moyes – he joined up with North End for a trial. Yet, as he told the Daily Star in 2013, Stoke pipped Preston to a deal, and the rest is history.
“His brother Kenny was my agent when I was with Aarhus in Denmark and I had a week on a trial at Preston and it all went really well,” said Iwelumo. “I played in a reserve game against Port Vale and John Rudge, who works for Stoke, watched me and offered me a contract with them the next morning. Preston offered me a contract that night but I had already signed for Stoke earlier that day. So I have Moyes to thank for bringing me back to England but Rudge jumped on the bandwagon! I didn’t know the Preston offer was coming until after I had signed for Stoke. I had a great week working with David,” he added.
This is the most bizarre story of the five. Striker Todorov had been banging goals in over in his native Bulgaria, hitting 25 goals in 33 games for Litex Lovech in the 1999-2000 season. That attracted Preston’s interest, and David Moyes brought him over for a trial ahead of a potential deal.
However, Todorov’s ‘lucky boots’ were lost on the way to England, and he had to borrow a pair for his trial game. Todorov was not only dreadful in his game, but then couldn’t walk for a week due to the borrowed boots, and Moyes sent him packing.
The Bulgarian later joined West Ham United, and fired Portsmouth to promotion from the Championship with 26 league goals in 2002-03 season. Who knows how things could have turned out for Todorov and Preston had those boots not been misplaced…
A name that won’t mean much to many fans in England, but Sangoy was coming through the ranks at Boca Juniors when Clive Middlemass was tipped off about his availability, and brought him to Preston for a trial.
A technically-gifted striker, Sangoy could’t win a deal at Preston, but went on to have a very good career. He headed to Ajax, Apollon Limassol, Sporting Gijon, Al-Wakrah in Qatar and even Mumbai City in India. The Argentinian scored fairly regularly in Cyprus and in Spain, and became known for scoring superb free kicks. There was clearly a player in Sangoy, but Preston didn’t feel he could make the grade under Craig Brown in 2004.