Football / Fan's Eye View: Saviour Beck hits right note: No. 55 Preston North End

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The Independent Online
TO THE majority of football fans our messiah, John Beck, is the Antichrist. In combination with the League's last plastic pitch, PNE are becoming the team to hate. We are the Third Division equivalent of Arsenal. Chants of 'boring boring Preston' follow us everywhere. One of those problems, the pitch, will be gone by the start of the next season, but hopefully Beck will have knocked back the England job to stay at Deepdale.

Not every club has their own Jack Walker and so saviours have to be welcomed, whatever their pedigree. From afar I was never a fan of Cambridge but at PNE Beck's philosophy makes sense. Desperate situations call for desperate measures.

On arriving, his first measure was to strip the club to its bare bones and start again. Only two first-team regulars remain from the pre-Beck era. This radical change probably cost relegation. Too many comings and goings meant there was little consistency - only Tony Ellis finding the back of the net.

There was little to celebrate at the end-of-season party at Bolton, but many fans felt there was something to be optimistic about. A fresh start needs a fresh season and most fans have quickly taken the cocky southerner to the cockles of their hearts. One year on from Beck and his assistant, Gary Peters, arriving at Deepdale the future is a lot brighter.

Many fans realise that Beck did not want to stay in the Second Division and accepted that maybe he was right. As the old cliche goes you have to take one step back to take two forward. It certainly seems to be working. A successful season in the Third Division will be of much more benefit to everyone than a mediocre season in the much tougher Second Division.

Only the antithesis of Beck, Dario Gradi, seems to be capable of stopping us from marching away with the championship. The top two are an interesting combination. Gradi's success is as well documented as Beck's tactics. But over the last few years Crewe have been too good for the Third but seriously lacking in the Second. It seems that Crewe are the media favourites and so PNE fans have adopted an 'Elton Welsby doesn't like us, we don't care' attitude towards the media's preference for Crewe's passing game.

Beck's tactics are certainly direct but as Di Stefano, who the great man likes to quote, once said: 'Football without goals is like an afternoon without sun.' Is attacking football to be criticised?

Beck and his side entertain - it may not mean stringing 10 or 15 passes together - but it is entertaining. PNE play with two wingers - Ainsworth and Raynor - and two strikers - Conroy and Ellis. You only have to look at the goals scored column to see the results. PNE are only second to Reading for the number of goals scored and have yet to play at their best.

Beck has done well during his first full season but it is not only on the pitch where change is happening for the better at Deepdale. Beck has brought Gorby levels of perestroika to a club that preferred to act like the KGB towards their fans. The only contact fans had previously was handing over their cash at the turnstiles. Frank exchanges between Beck, directors, players and fans are now a regular event.

The directors are even trying to buy back Deepdale which was slowly sold off to the local council in the early Eighties. It is perhaps a sign of past complacency that the club only actually own the boardroom at Deepdale. The council, though, seem unwilling to sell. The situation needs plenty of work before everything is rosy.

Many PNE fans have been brought up on a tradition of passing football, of living with the past. For far too long a sense of glory from the Tom Finney days was enough. A revolution was needed and Beck has brought this. The majority of fans are happy with Beck at the helm, at least while he's picking a winning side.