Football: Moyes Stays True to Preston Tradition ; Deepdale's Young Generation Are Aiming to Recreate the Aura of Finney and Shankly by Regaining Coveted Place in the Top Flight
Rich, Tim, The Independent (London, England)
OF ALL the places they could have chosen to locate the National Football Museum, none was quite so appropriate as Preston. To make it part of the new Wembley would have been too obvious and ensured nobody would see it for three years. Manchester and Liverpool have shrines enough to football.
As befits the first club to win the championship, Preston North End have a proper reverence for their history. The two beautifully remodelled stands at Deepdale are not named after a brand of lager or sportswear but in memory of perhaps their two greatest players, Sir Tom Finney and Bill Shankly.
"You must have a sense of history at this club," said David Moyes, the manager who is steering Preston back towards those dearly- remembered days. "I am fortunate that I see Sir Tom Finney most weeks and anyone who has any knowledge of him or Preston North End will know how steeped in tradition they are. I hope the new group of players can be talked about in years to come."
Maybe that is not such a fanciful statement. Preston will not win the First Division title but they are young, well-drilled (three are products of the Manchester United youth system) and their often technically excellent football has earned them a place in the play- off positions.
"In our last game we had three 22 to 23-year-olds, a couple of 24- year- olds and Mark Rankine was the only person who touched 30. We're looking forward to building this team into something that can be taken further. The fact that they are all of the same age gives me a chance to mould them."
The manner in which he has done so, emphasising discipline and free-flowing football, has led some to compare Moyes to the young Alex Ferguson, who remains a source of encouragement to his fellow Scot.
The forced international break came at a good time for Preston. Moyes talks about his young side being mentally drained by the experience of playing First Division football. "It can be a frightening factor," he said. "It has been a step into the dark; most of them haven't visited many of the grounds we have been to this season." It has been a step in the dark for their manager too.
Since leaving Parkhead as a 21-year-old in 1983, virtually his entire playing career was spent in the lower divisions. He was Preston's centre- half before he was their manager, taking over the hot seat in January 1998 when they were 17th in the Second Division and, although in Sean Gregan and Michael Appleton there was the basis for a decent team, Preston's immediate future was parlous. "The players were underachieving and the team looked as if it would be relegated to the Third Division, from which the club might never have recovered. …