Preston are suddenly being noticed; unfamiliar territory for a fairly unfashionable club.
North End sit second in the Championship table, just two points off top spot. A 3-1 home win over Huddersfield Town on Saturday ensured that Preston head into the international break inside the automatic promotion spots.
Huddersfield were unbeaten in seven before heading to Deepdale, but were taken apart by Alex Neil’s men. North End have now lost just three league games this season, and are the top goalscorers in the Championship.
In a league that is often dominated by headlines about Leeds United, West Bromwich Albion, Nottingham Forest, Derby County and Stoke City, Preston are suddenly receiving the praise they deserve.
More and more media outlets are publishing articles about Preston’s rise. The club’s model, of signing hard-working, usually British players on the cheap and creating a close-knit team bond, is one that isn’t often used anymore.
Sheffield United did do something similar under Chris Wilder. Yes, they spent on John Egan and Oliver Norwood, two players beyond Preston’s club-record, but the principles were very similar.
George Baldock, Enda Stevens, Jack O’Connell, John Egan, John Fleck and John Lundstram all played in lower leagues before winning promotion with the Blades last season. They’re now all featuring regularly in the Premier League.
Now, two pundits have suggested that Preston are similar to Wilder’s United side. Firstly, Gregor Robertson of The Times. Formerly of Nottingham Forest, Rotherham United and others, Robertson drew parallels between the two clubs in the sense of their recruitment strategy and tactical approach with a British manager, as well as how they’re both overlooked in favour of ‘bigger’ names.
A young, hungry group of players, largely recruited from the lower leagues, most of whom have played together for some time. A straight-talking, tactically intelligent British manager whose side are well-drilled and highly motivated. A club with one of the smallest wage bills in the Sky Bet Championship, often spoken of admiringly but, in truth, overlooked in favour of more vaunted names — in the dugout, on the team sheet, on the club crest.
Then, it was the turn of David Prutton – who actually came up through the Forest ranks with Robertson. Prutton told Football League World that, the more he thinks about the Preston, the more he sees shades of Sheffield United, in that they’re a ‘very good footballing side’ using players with vast Football League experience.
“The more I think about Preston, the more you get shades of what Sheffield United were. A group of players that have got a lot of Football League experience and maybe have bounced off bigger clubs in the past, but are a very good footballing side,” he added.
The Blades ended up winning automatic promotion last season, and now sit fifth in the Premier League. We’d all take Preston being sat in a similar place in a year’s time.