Paul Newman: Brown battling to put some pride back into historic Preston

The Football League Column: Brown's revitalised Preston side face three away games in eight days that will go a long way to determine if they stay up

With only eight games remaining, his team are still eight points away from safety but Phil Brown is not giving up on Preston North End's chances of Championship survival. It took the former Derby County and Hull City manager 12 league matches to record his first win with Preston, but a subsequent run of three successive victories has kept the flame of hope alive at Deepdale.

Saturday's 2-1 success at home to Swansea City was the most impressive so far. The Swans look secure in the play-off places and had begun the day only one point off an automatic promotion slot, but found themselves outplayed by a spirited Preston team.

While Crystal Palace's victory over Barnsley was a setback to his hopes of avoiding relegation, Brown could at least take heart as Preston had climbed off the bottom of the table. Palace, one place above the drop zone, are the team in his sights.

"I'm still refusing to look at league tables, but we have a four-team league table we have to finish on top of and if we do that we will stay in the Championship," he said. "The beauty of the victory today was that it was against one of the best football teams I've played against in the Championship."

The last two years have not been easy for Preston, who had grown accustomed to finishing in or around the play-off places until a gradual decline last season, which had followed a good start to the campaign. Alan Irvine's team were in third place after nine matches, but only eight victories in their next 37 saw them finish 17th, which was a sure sign of things to come this season. Irvine was replaced by Darren Ferguson in the middle of that run, but Sir Alex's son followed him out of the door less than 12 months later when he was sacked with Preston rooted to the bottom of the table at the end of December.

What Preston clearly need is stability. They have had financial troubles, having survived a winding-up petition from Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs last summer, while events of the last 18 months have dented what used to be a reputation for giving managers time to make their mark. Gary Peters, David Moyes, Craig Brown and Billy Davies all enjoyed comparatively long runs in the Preston hot seat over the last two decades.

History hangs around Preston more than at most clubs, despite the closure last year of the National Football Museum, which is relocating to Manchester. The Lilywhites have played at Deepdale since their formation 130 years ago. Founder members of the Football League seven years later, Preston were the inaugural champions, going the whole season unbeaten, a feat finally equalled by Arsenal seven years ago. Like Arsène Wenger's team, Preston were criticised for containing too many imports, having brought a large number of players down from Scotland. A year later North End became the first club to win the Double.

Preston, who last played in the top flight exactly 50 years ago, were the first great team from football's stronghold in the north-west. Although they were overtaken long ago by the Merseyside and Manchester clubs, their supporters have had to watch in frustration as a succession of their historic rivals – Blackburn Rovers, Bolton Wanderers, Burnley and Blackpool – have cemented revivals by winning places in the Premier League. There are currently eight teams from the north-west in the top flight, including Wigan Athletic, who had not even formed more than 40 years after Preston's Invincibles took the country by storm.

For the moment simply keeping a place in the second tier would be a major achievement, though Brown has been encouraged by recent performances. The recent international break, when Preston were missing only four players, gave the manager his first lengthy spell to work with his players on the training ground.

Preston's fate could well be sealed within the next week. Beginning with tomorrow's visit to promotion-chasing Reading, Brown's men face three away matches in the space of eight days, with trips to Portsmouth and Doncaster Rovers to follow. Their last five fixtures feature three home matches, against Sheffield United, Cardiff City and Watford, and visits to Millwall and Ipswich.

Life and Style
love + sex A new study has revealed the average size - but does that leave men outside the 'normal' range being thought of as 'abnormal'?
Arts and Entertainment
The Palace of Westminster is falling down, according to John Bercow
voices..says Matthew Norman
Steve Bruce and Gus Poyet clash
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Graham Norton said Irish broadcaster RTE’s decision to settle was ‘moronic’
Arts and Entertainment
Jake and Dinos Chapman were motivated by revenge to make 'Bring me the Head of Franco Toselli! '
arts + ents Shapero Modern Gallery to show explicit Chapman Brothers film
Arts and Entertainment
Kurt Cobain performing for 'MTV Unplugged' in New York, shortly before his death
music Brett Morgen's 'Cobain: Montage of Heck' debunks many of the myths
Life and Style
Brendan Rodgers
football The Liverpool manager will be the first option after Pep Guardiola
Amazon misled consumers about subscription fees, the ASA has ruled
Arts and Entertainment
Myanna Buring, Julian Rhind-Tutt and Russell Tovey in 'Banished'
TV Jimmy McGovern tackles 18th-century crime and punishment
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Whitehouse as Herbert
arts + ents
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn