How good could Big Jon Parkin be?
Alan Irvine showed admirable loyalty to Preston North End by choosing to stay by the Ribble this Summer, given that West Bromwich Albion were one club who had been rumoured to be interested. That said, PNE blatantly overachieved in 2008-9. The season seemed to drift along a little during the autumn months but Irvine’s honest prescription of workhorse powered organization (cynics would say defensiveness) finally won the day and the lilywhites found themselves in the rarefied final play-off position. Sheffield United proved too powerful over two legs but the Scotsman’s reputation was rightly enhanced.
All the pointers, however, are that this is as far as Preston can go. The first symptom has seen long standing midfield fixture Paul McKenna leave for Nottingham Forest and although the Lancastrian is far from being in the first flush of youth, he will be truly hard to replace. The other player who caught my eye in a white shirt last season was Ross Wallace; Irvine’s diminutive fellow countryman having been prematurely evicted from the Big Sunderland House in favour of a more “embroidered” approach courtesy of your Djibril Cissés and Steed Malbranques. Wallace showed tenacity and immense skill in a very productive run of form.
On first glance, the white shirted back line looks prosaic, with familiar campaigners like Callum Davidson, Youl Mawéné and Sean St. Ledger holding sway, although the latter can just as often be found in a midfield role and is still best known for his prominent role in Big Ron Manager. Nonetheless, the experienced bulk of the line up proved to be an effective combination and Preston always looked tight at the back. However, no assessment of the Lancashire club can be made without mention of perhaps the Championship’s most extraordinary footballer. How good could Jon Parkin be if he lost a few of kilograms? “The Beast” is adored by the fans and the sight of him celebrating as Preston put play off rivals Cardiff to the sword was one to behold. The big fella now lacks the surprise factor but theorizing over how to stop him is a lot easier than actually doing so.