Preston North End currently sit 10th in the Sky Bet Championship, a far cry from earlier form, claiming just 4 points from their last 8 games.
Regardless of current woes, Preston fortunately still find themselves within touching distance of play-off places, needing just 4 points to level with Cardiff City who currently occupy 6th place.
After such a promising start to the campaign, it would feel somewhat wasteful to watch North End fade away in to mid-table mediocrity.
We have seen them go toe-to-toe with some of the Championships best, I can recall many of games this season where we have played an attractive style of football but watching them during the restart, is as though somebody has come in during lockdown and put the fire in our player’s bellies out.
Even the most optimistic of supporters would struggle to defend some of our recent performances, some could say we are falling well below what we have come to expect of this squad- which could be partially to blame for current unrest amongst fans.
What you have to understand is that Preston fans are used to being let down at the last hurdle, so please excuse us when we get emotionally-charged over what others would consider to be, ‘just a game’.
For folk like us, it has been years of support, faith and commitment, but it is the hope that kills you. Most of our fans wince at the mention of Bobby Zamora, just hearing ‘West Ham’ can evoke painful memories of what could have been, had we of won that infamous play-off final back in 2005. Still to this day, I can’t help but feel robbed!
The squad we had then was arguably worthy of a spot in the Premier League, but it just wasn’t to be for us and in 2011, we were relegated from the Championship. It took us a long time to fully recover. Nearly 10 years later, we are still without a premier league claim to our name, but that is the least of our concerns, when the majority of our starting XI are out of contract in 2021.
The likes of Browne, Johnson, Davies, Pearson, Maguire, Hughes, Harrop, Fisher and Ledson to name a few, are all free to leave us at the end of next season, once their contracts expire, providing no new deal is agreed or the inevitable happens and we are forced to sell.
This may be our last real shot with the current squad and the worst of it is that we are not there to see it. There could be a long wait before we are in a serious position to compete for promotion again. Though, there is nothing to suggest that this is the case, you can’t help but have this overwhelming sense that making the play offs this year, is ‘make or break’ for the club.
I fear a bitter revolt from fans, should we fail to reach the play-offs and just like when Zamora’s name continues to bring back negative emotions for many, Preston fans will not be so quick to forget current barriers to the promised land. Some are angered by the ‘lack of investment’, some can’t forgive the poor decision-making by Alex Neil, especially in the 10-game run-up and frankly some have just had enough of being let down.
Preston will always run through the blood but you can sense the expectations from fans, they’ve watched this team perform all season. They have been ridiculed for their criticisms at times, but it seems as though the squad haven’t quite been the same without them.
Preston North End’s next game against Huddersfield kicks off at 3pm and it is safe to say that they can’t afford anything less than 3 points to keep their play-off hopes alive.
Time is running out, they must rekindle the fire that once burned inside them or face being reduced to ashes.