It's "Leeds Against The World" time again here at Through It All Together, for the last time in the 2015/16 season. It's been a privilege to get to interview bloggers and fans from around the Championship; I hope you've enjoyed it as much as I have. This week, we found a Preston North End blogger to answer some questions about their first season back in the Championship, a season that has seen the Lilywhites surpass expectations... and Leeds United in the table. A little under one year ago...
With only three points separating Leeds and PNE at the end of the 2015/16 campaign, we've asked Gary Bond of fan site Lilywhite Magic for insight into how the season went so well for the Championship newcomers and what we can expect in the season finale on Saturday.
As always, we hope you find it a worthwhile exercise to see things from the other side before a match. Meet the Lilywhites through the eyes of Gary, reminisce on the days of Grayson and Beckford in White instead of Lilywhite, and get ready for Saturday's match.
Leeds Against The World: Preston North End
Hey, Gary. Thanks for joining us this week. Our teams sit in 11th and 12th place, firmly mid table at the end of the season. How do Preston fans feel this first season back in the Championship has gone?
I can only go by what I’ve read online, my own thoughts and the general ‘feeling’ at games – I think it’s fair to say that practically everyone is more than happy with how it’s gone. We’ve looked a lot more comfortable than we ever expected – some were expecting a struggle. It was a slow start but we soon found our feet – finishing 11th or 12th is certainly commendable.
How do the fans feel about Simon Grayson and Jermaine Beckford these days?
We went through a bit of a sticky spell last season prior to the signing of Daniel Johnson – Simon did get a bit of stick but other than that he’s always had the fans’ support. I’ll admit I got frustrated myself but Simon went on to prove just why he’s always been right for the job – he deserves a knighthood for ending our play-off hoo-doo! Ha ha! For me personally, I think overall Simon has done a fine job – he got us back into the Championship and even though the target was survival, he exceeded expectations. The style of football can be frustrating at times – although he’s made us a solid outfit, we can be little negative especially when we ‘sit back’ on a narrow lead.
As for Jermaine Beckford – well he’s been fantastic ever since he joined and after his hat-trick in the play-off final last season, in my eyes he’s a legend! He’s been out most of this season with an injury and he has been very, very sorely missed.
What do you hope happens over the summer at Deepdale? And where do you expect to place next season?
It’s been a good season but of course there’s room for improvement. Firstly, we badly need a new striker. Beckford can handle this division no problem, but Garner has struggled badly (although some might argue that’s because of a lack of support from midfield and/or he hasn’t had Beckford alongside him). Doyle (who’s on loan from Cardiff) is nowhere near good enough and I’m not totally convinced with Hugill.
I’m hoping there’ll be a few new faces during the summer – if our owner is serious about pushing ahead and possibly fighting for a play-off spot, we need to spend some cash (albeit sensibly and not over-spending on dross as we did in the Irvine days). Other than a new striker, I’d like to see a ‘keeper brought in (permanently, not on loan), a centre back, a right winger and possibly another centre midfielder. Sort those areas out and we might push for a play-off spot next season – all depends on who we bring in of course.
Do you have a favorite Preston-Leeds memory?
Although I wasn’t at the game (I was listening to it on the radio), my favourite memory has to be the 6-4 game at Elland Road for obvious reasons! Most of the previous games between our clubs are best forgotten from my point of view!
What’s one matchup we should watch for on Saturday?
I’ll go for the obvious – Beckford! He always has a number of chances whenever he plays but he’s always going to take one of them! Still a great finisher even though he misses a few and his link-up play is brilliant. It’ll be even better if Daniel Johnson is back to his best (he’s been in poor form most of the season, but some fans who went to Reading said he had a very good game).
Give us a reason you’ll win:
We are usually capable of creating a number of chances and we are a danger inside the opposition's box. Although scoring has been a problem all season, we now have Beckford back and he’s been chipping in with goals already.
Give us a reason you’ll lose:
We have been solid defensively all season, however it’s now been a while since we kept a clean sheet and our previously solid defence has been looking rocky. I don’t think the change of goalkeepers has helped – Pickford being recalled was a big loss. Lindegaard has looked ok but even his form has been patchy recently. As for Kirkland, he’s very suspect and IMO I think he’s awful and has the movement of a statue.
What’s your predicted result?
Given our recent defensive woes but also the recent return of Beckford, I think there’ll be a few goals. 2-2.
After Leicester won the Premier League on Monday, I can't help think that anything is possible. And I hate to think Preston North End might make a run to promotion before Leeds United, but who knows? It's been a good season for them for sure, we need to finish ahead of them in 2016/17.
Anyway, big thanks to Gary Bond for responding to our questions and helping with our tenth and final edition of the Leeds Against The World Q&A this season. You can read more about Preston North End on his website, Lilywhite Magic.
We'll have a full preview of the Preston match coming later this week from our own Anthony Linley. What do you think will happen against the Lilywhites, Leeds fans? We're trying to get some reader conversations going below in the comments after every article, why don't you start us off? Think we'd be better off with Grayson and Beckford in Leeds white? Think we'll beat them at Deepdale on Saturday? Let us know what you think, and as always, thanks for reading. We'll come back with our next LATW in the Fall. For now, #MOT.