For the majority watching on Sky Sports last week, Preston North End vs. Blackpool was just a game to watch on a Monday night sat in front of the television.

But for the 17,000 plus at Deepdale, it reminded everyone of just how much one game can mean to a fan.

The game itself was typical of a derby; tackles flying in, the crowd reacting to every decision the referee made, and a very cagey tepid affair, but it was football stripped to the bare bones, it was football as a neutral, you just love to watch.

The Preston fans particularly targeted Tom Ince, who, trying to put himself in the shop window did little to endear himself to potential Premier League buyers, as every chance missed, and dribble failed, was greeted with a loud unanimous cheer from the Deepdale faithful.

Being a Blackpool player was one thing, but a player who is worthy of a chance in the Premier League, was always going to add petrol to the fire of the home support.

Quite like Gareth Bale in 2007, visiting as a Southampton player to Deepdale with a move to the Premier League imminent, he endured a torrid game and at one point lost his temper, smashing a ball into the sponsorship boards on the sideline, greeted with a satisfactory cheer from the Preston fans.

The game was looking set for extra-time, as both teams failed to break each other down, Preston’s grit and determination pitted against Blackpool’s on paper superiority, until Preston defender Tom Clarke headed home with three minutes to go. 

Deepdale erupted; well just over 13,000 of the capacity did anyway.

The home side managed to hold their nerve until the final whistle, and cause a minor upset against their arch-rivals. But what followed was what makes the Football League so real in comparison to the Premier League.

Preston fans ran onto the pitch to bask in the glory of beating their rivals; not commendable by any stretch, but the fact that a first round win in the Capital One Cup provoked that sort of reaction shows that it was the team they beat and not the occasion that they cared about.

Both sets of fans kept the noise up for the whole 90 minutes, and were both a credit to themselves during the game, even if they let the occasion get to them after the final whistle.

Whereas the Premier League harbours all the attention, the Football League is still a great advert for the English game, particularly games like this with an added spice.

The Football League is a million miles away from the Premier League in terms of interest and revenue, but the entertainment can be matched.

Whilst the wages are still way above the national average, the Football League cannot offer that financial security quite like the Premier League can, and to emphasise the beauty of this game even more, Tom Clarke, the scorer of the winning goal was without a club at the end of last season.

In an age when the Premier League are panicking about the lack of British talent in their league, it is worth noting that the winning side Preston had 15 British players in their squad, and of the three that were not, Canadian international Iain Hume was born in Edinburgh and Australian Bailey Wright came through the club's academy, so is technically home grown.

For all the Premier League’s mercurial talents and flair, the Football League can often be a welcome release. The next time a match between two football league clubs is scheduled for television broadcast, give it a chance, you may be surprised.


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Preston North End
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