Meet the opposition | Preston North End

31st January 2020
First team
Preston Scott Sinclair

As Swansea City prepare to make the trip to Deepdale, we take a closer look at Preston North End.

What’s their story?


Preston have made steady progress since their promotion from League One at the end of the 2014-15 season, narrowly missing out on a Championship play-off place during the 2017-18 campaign.

The Lilywhites came close to Premier League promotion on three separate occasions in their last spell in the Championship, reaching a play-off final in 2005 before losing semi-finals in 2006 and 2009.

They are one of few sides who have twice lifted the FA Cup, once in 1889 and again in 1938 - the first FA Cup final to be broadcast on live television.

They were also the First Division champions during the maiden year of the Football League in 1888-89, and followed that up by retaining the title the following season.

The 1888-89 side is known as ‘The Invincibles’ having won the first-ever league and cup ‘Double’ without losing a game.

How’s their form?

Preston Tom Barkhuizen

Picking up again. The Lilywhites enjoyed an excellent start to the season and were a fixture in the top six for the majority of the campaign.

However, they had recently been on a five-match winless run and won just two of 11 games in the Championship.

That sequence of results had dropped them out of the play-off places but they have responded with wins over Charlton and Barnsley to rise back into the top six.

Who’s the boss?

Alex Neil

Alex Neil. A former midfielder, Neil was appointed as Preston manager in July 2017 following the departure of Simon Grayson, who left to take over as manager of Sunderland.

Neil started his managerial career at Scottish side Hamilton Academical in 2013, having skippered them when former Swans assistant Billy Reid held the managerial reins.

He went on to be appointed as player-manager on an interim basis and led the club to promotion back to the Scottish Premier League in his first full season in charge.

Neil took charge of Norwich City in January 2015 and enjoyed a phenomenal first few months in charge, leading the Canaries to promotion to the top-flight with a play-off final victory over Middlesbrough.

However, their time in the top-flight lasted less than 12 months as they suffered relegation in the following season.

He left Carrow Road in March 2017 and joined Preston in July. Neil led North End to an excellent seventh-placed finish in his first season in charge, followed by 14th place the following campaign.

Who are the key men?

Ben Pearson

Midfielder Daniel Johnson has been enjoying an excellent season, scoring nine goals and setting up four more before being sidelined by injury.

North End have suffered during his absence, but he has recently returned at a timely moment ahead of the crucial final run-in.

The Lancashire club have also made a notable January addition in the form of ex-Swansea man Scott Sinclair, with the hat-trick hero from the 2011 play-off final joining from Celtic.

Striker Tom Barkhuizen has nine goals and has carried the goalscoring load in the absence of Johnson, as has Josh Harrop with the midfielder having eight goals to his name.

Ben Pearson is a highly influential figure in the middle of the park, while Ben Davies has been a rock at the heart of the Lilywhites defence.