Built in 1875 on the former Deepdale Farm, Preston North End’s home is the site of one of the oldest remaining stadiums in the country, if not the world. Initially used by the local North End sports club’s cricket and rugby divisions, it was leased to their footballing colleagues three years later, who have remained there ever since.
Thanks to a modern re-design, nowadays it is purely the site of its’ historic predecessor. The Invincibles Pavilion – named after William Sudell’s side who emerged from the Football League’s inaugural competition as unbeaten champions in 1888/89 – brought the building work to a close in 2008. Modelled on the home of Serie A sides Genoa and Sampdoria – Stadio Luigi Ferraris - it incorporates a unique metalwork which raises into a point on each corner of the roof. One of the ground’s other focal points is something quite special that occupies a significant area behind the Sir Tom Finney Stand – a statue-cum-water feature known as The Splash. Peter Hodgkinson’s statue was described as ‘a true likeness’ by the Preston legend himself and depicts Finney as he appeared in a photograph taken on a waterlogged pitch at Chelsea’s Stamford Bridge in 1956.
In spite of the 4-2 defeat in February of this year, Dean Smith’s men can boast of a healthy dominance over Preston, winning seven of the last nine meetings, including three wins and a draw at Deepdale. And who could forget 18 April 2014, when Alan Judge’s penalty on the half hour earned the 1-0 win at Griffin Park that secured promotion to the Championship?!
Bees fans will be housed a few minutes’ walk away from Sir Tom Finney’s statue, in the Bill Shankly Kop at the northern end of the ground. Many usually make the pilgrimage for one of the favoured away days of the season and, though the full 6,000 capacity is probably a little out of reach, the generous admission prices should convince a couple more to venture north - £24 for adults, £15 concessions, £8 for 11-18s and a mere £2 for those under 11.
Did you know?
In 1986, the club installed one of only four plastic playing surfaces in the Football League in order to generate income by renting to local teams and reduce the number of postponements. By the time the loathed pitch was removed eight years later, it was the last of its kind used in the English professional game.
How to get there:
Deepdale sits in the north-east corner of the city opposite the sprawling Moor Park and, at around one mile from the city centre, is accessible by most means of transport aside from walking, which takes no more than 25 minutes. Preston railway station is half a mile further back from the city centre and is a two to three-hour train journey from London Euston, depending on which train you catch; those at 43 minutes past the hour are an hour longer in duration than the trains that depart on the half hour due to stops throughout Birmingham and Wolverhampton.
The lion’s share of the car journey to Lancashire is spent on the M40 and the M6, with generic directions advising drivers to exit at junction 31. Well-known amongst seasoned away supporters however, is the handy tip that avoids the pre and post-match congestion – endure just a few minutes more and take junction 31a where signs will lead the way to the stadium. When booking tickets, supporters can arrange to leave their cars in the officially recognised Moor Park or Moor Park School car parks during the game, but will find various further parking options nearby. Fans should be reminded that, however tempting, parking upon the inviting grass verges in the surrounding area will not be looking upon kindly by the local authorities!
Where to Eat/Drink:
It’s not just parking on those grass verges that is discouraged; away fans should note that drinking in the town centre pubs is almost frowned upon in Preston, with police and pub staff keen to move travelling fans in the direction of the ground.
Within ten minutes’ walk however, are the St Gregory’s Catholic Club and the Fulwood Conservative Club, which both offer a decent atmosphere for away fans, as well as parking for a small fee. Sumners on Tom Finney Way provides a good mix of home and away supporters for lower profile games without a known rivalry and is revered for its cheap portion of pie, chips and gravy.
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