“Down through the years there have been many ‘half tidy’ battles with the stout men of Preston dating all the way back to 1888, when we met the ‘Old Invincibles’ in the English Cup Final at the Kennington Oval, and against all the odds defeated the team of the century by two goals to one George ‘Spry’ Woodhall grabbing the winner with just 13 minutes remaining of an absorbing final tie. The following season the men from Deepdale had their revenge defeating the ‘Throstles’ 1-0 in the Semi-Final of the cup at Bramall Lane, Sheffield. Jumping forward a few years to March 1935, Arthur Gale was the Albion hero scoring the only goal of the game as Albion defeated Preston in the fourth round of the competition on their way to the club’s second cup final in four years, alas succumbing to an excellent Sheffield Wednesday side of the day at Wembley. Two years later, in April 1937 the day after the Albion’s Chairman and mentor, the great Billy Bassett sadly passed away, Albion faced the Lancastrians in a Highbury semi-final, a game the players never had the stomach for in all honesty, losing 4-1, a result that paled into insignificance given the loss of such a great man of Albion. In 1954 the game of all games for many, the team of the 20th century, Vic Buckingham’s enormously talented side beat Tom Finney’s Preston team 3-2, with skipper Len Millard, probably the man of the match, not allowing the brilliant Tom Finney a kick throughout the game. Quite poignant then that the club would honour Len, before last nights game at The Hawthorns, presenting his Daughter Paula with her Dad’s cap, along with the same presentation to Chris Barlow son of the late great Ray Barlow, also a member of that brilliant Wembley side.
Last night’s game, was indeed another important ‘battle’ in the history DNA of these two great sides, with Albion pushing hard for promotion, indeed hopefully the Championship trophy, winning quite comfortably it has to be said, to move twelve points clear of the play-off places and with any luck, one step nearer the ‘Holy grail’ of the Premiership. Only time will tell!!
Watching on from the Regis Suite, was another man who history shows made his mark in a Preston clash, by scoring a stunning hat trick against the men from Deepdale in a 3-1 win at The Hawthorns, way back in November 2000. That man, Lee Hughes, was joined in the suite, by Presdent Brendon Batson OBE, Kevin Summerfield, Stan Jones, Ally Robertson and legendary skipper Graham Williams, who was called into action to make those so important pitchside presentations to the families of Len and Ray, to pretty much add the glitter to a wonderful evening. How privileged I felt, to be able to be a part of bringing such a wonderful occasion to our football club.
On the other side of the ‘Shrine’ Chairman Ray Wilson was joined by Des Lyttle, Ian Hamilton and Micky Fudge, all engaged on East Stand duties, both prior to and after the game.
A great night was had by all, and we now look forward to the visit of Wigan Athletic on Saturday, and of course the return of Paul Scharner, now back in the UK working for his former club.”