Manchester United and England both have League 1 side PNE to thank for a few reasons.
Manchester United have had some great success in the least 20 years or so. They plan to carry on the success with David Moyes at the helm, and the club should be thankful to Preston North End for helping to play their part in that.
David Beckham was just a young footballer with limited first team experience aged 19 when he arrived at Preston North End who were in Division 3 at the time. Part of the 'Class of 92', little did North End or United know how big of an effect Beckham would have on the world throughout his career. Beckham gained some much needed experience at Preston, giving him the confidence and taste of first team action he needed before returning to Old Trafford to become a key player. 'Becks' only played in five games for Preston but had a considerable impact on the North End faithful, many fans still recall his goal direct from a corner kick as one of the most memorable things they have seen.
After returning to United Beckham started to feature more for the first team and the next season after the departures of Paul Ince and Andrei Kanchelskis he established himself in the first team. The rest is history. Now he holds the record for the most appearances for England by an outfield player (115) and is the only Englishman to win league titles in four different countries.
Danny Welbeck started featuring for United in cup competitions in 2008 and in November of that year he made his Premier League debut when he came on as a substitute against Stoke City aged 17. He went on to score on his debut, a cracking 30-yard strike that flew into the top corner. After a few more appearances in the cups and from the bench, he went on loan to PNE in January 2010. At that time Preston were managed by Darren Ferguson, Sir Alex's son. The Lancashire club again providing a helping hand to Sir Alex by allowing his son to try and progress as a manager. Unfortunately that didn't work out and he returned to Peterborough United. Welbeck scored on his debut for North End, a first time beautiful chip over the 'keeper against Ipswich Town after a perfectly weighted pass from Jon Parkin. Unfortunately Welbeck only scored one more goal, and his loan spell was cut short by injury. He did gain a lot of experience however, and his displays convinced Sunderland to move for him on loan the following season.
David Moyes, is now the man with the unenviable task of trying to some extent deliver the same standards as Sir Alex Ferguson. He was the choice of many following his fantastic 11 years at Everton. He had done a remarkable job at Goodison Park, but again, it had all started long ago at Deepdale, the oldest continually used Football ground in the world. Moyes joined Preston in 1993 as a player after a spell in Scotland with Dunfermline Athletic and Hamilton Academicals. After establishing himself as a commanding centre-back for North End, he joined the backroom staff working under Gary Peters. Moyes took over from Peters in 1998 and went on to lead Preston into the Division 2 play-offs the following year. Defeat to Gillingham in the semi-final followed, but the next season The Lilywhites went up as champions. The good form continued in Division 1, and they reached the play-off final against Bolton Wanderers. One game away from the top flight but it proved too much. They lost and the following March, Moyes joined Everton. He learnt his trade at Preston, and if they had not given him a chance that early, things could have been a lot different for the Scotsman.
Beckham became captain of England and led them in three major championships. Welbeck is also now becoming a key player for the England team. As well as these two, Andy Carroll is on the periphery of the squad. He is another who would be thankful for a spell at Preston early in his career. In August 2007 aged 18, Carroll joined Preston on loan on a six-month deal to allow him to get some first team games. Whilst he didn't get amongst the goals on a regular basis, he showed that he could be a good footballer as well as a target man. Carroll achieved as many red cards as goals for the club, one each, which gave an early glimpse of his bad boy behaviour. Nevertheless a loan move can be good for a player for a number of reasons. A different environment to test yourself, time to become more independent and importantly a run of games. Carroll went back to Newcastle United and kicked on providing the goals to get them promoted and then earn them £35 million. So let's add Newcastle to the list of teams who should be thanking Preston North End too.
image: © nasmac