Preston may not have been in the top flight for many, many years, but some players have become real legends at Deepdale.
From Tom Finney to Alex Bruce, from Andy Saville to Graham Alexander, some Preston players in years gone by were heroes at Deepdale, and managed to retire as North End legends.
However, some players were on course for legend status at Deepdale, and ended up ruining it for themselves. Here are three players whose actions turned them from hero to zero in the eyes of Preston fans…
Under normal circumstances, a striker scoring 32 goals in 106 games, leaving and then coming back to bag another 56 goals in 88 would be grounds for legend status. Ellis did just that, establishing himself as a hero at Preston with his goalscoring exploits, and was even North End’s record signing when he returned in 1992. However, it all went wrong.
Ellis was involved in a spat with boss John Beck, and when he didn’t receive the contract offer he wanted, he made the unforgivable move in 1994. Ellis left Preston to join Blackpool, just two years after burying a hat-trick against them. Ellis spent most of his career with the Tangerines, racking up 64 gaols in 172 games. There were rumours of a Preston return in November 1995, but Blackpool managed to block it. Just how Preston fans would have taken to that is up for debate, but some North End supporters still haven’t forgiven him for his move to this day, and more than 25 years on, his name is best whispered around Deepdale.
This is another one that sticks in the memory. Healy was and still is Preston’s record signing, joining for £1.5million rising to £1.8million in January 2001. Healy’s sometimes had to play a secondary role to the likes of Ricardo Fuller and Richard Cresswell, but he still managed 45 goals in 156 games for North End, including five in 12 in the 2004-05 season.
Yet Healy’s own actions are remembered to this day. Leeds United were pursuing him, but Preston were trying to fend them off. When the two sides met at Elland Road in October 2004, Healy missed a golden chance to score before applauding the Leeds fans as he left the pitch. Weeks later, Preston finally sold Healy, and the Northern Irishman celebrated wildly in front of North End fans as he scored twice at Deepdale.
Many are yet to forgive him, and you know it’s bad when a potential return is scrapped because of expected fan backlash. Graham Westley considered signing Healy on a free transfer in 2012, but North End fans made it clear that he was not welcome back at Deepdale, and the move was abandoned.
When Simon Grayson landed Aiden McGeady on deadline day in August 2016, some felt it was a real gamble. The winger had lost his way at Everton, and looked short of inspiration at Sheffield Wednesday. At the age of 30, McGeady had major questions hanging over him – but what a signing he proved to be.
The Irishman scored a screamer against Barnsley on his debut, and went on to bag eight goals and nine assists in a stunning campaign at Deepdale. His nonchalant skill made him a fan favourite, even earning comparisons to Brian Mooney. McGeady’s season was one of the best individual campaigns in living memory for Preston, but it all went wrong.
McGeady didn’t join Preston permanently, instead joining Sunderland as he followed Grayson to the Stadium of Light. That in itself wasn’t a big deal, but on the eve of his return to Preston, McGeady claimed that he would much rather have Sunderland’s players than Preston’s, talking down his former club.
McGeady of course scored the next day, and having been booed for his comments, he ran half the length of the pitch to celebrate his goal in front of the baying Preston fans. North End finished just two points off the playoffs that season, whilst Sunderland went down. McGeady’s comments came back to bite him, and his outstanding season with Preston was tarnished by the fallout.