By Karan Gadhia – Deputy Sports Editor
Pluto caught up with former Preston North End player and Match of the Day pundit, Kevin Kilbane when he recently came to UCLan.
The 39-year-old started his career at Deepdale before going on to play for numerous other clubs including West Bromwich Albion, Sunderland and Everton.
He spoke to us about his verdict of North End’s season and traced back his roots with the team when he was at the academy.
“I’ve only been in for an hour or so but it’s nice to come here and speak to young aspiring guys like yourself who are aspiring journalists wanting careers in the sports industry.
“Preston are my team. I grew up supporting them and lived a two-minute walk from the ground so I’ve supported them since I could walk essentially and I’m a big fan.
“I’ve been pleased with PNE this season. I go and watch as many home games as I can, I haven’t been to as many as I would have liked this season but I’ve been to about half a dozen games which has been quite nice.
“This season was about stabilising the club back in the Championship again and Simon Grayson has done a great job so I’m delighted.”
The Lilywhites have exceeded all expectations this season by not only staying up, but also pushing for a top-ten finish.
“He (Simon Grayson) has built a solid platform. They’re a strong team defensively that’s difficult to break down and they’ve got a bit of character in the squad so when they go behind in games, they score a few late goals, which shows great character.
“I’m just hopeful now that there’s a bit of money invested into the team and over the next year or two they can push on and try to get into the top six.
“However, I’m a fan that doesn’t take anything for granted because I know how quickly things can change if the right people aren’t in place. If the right signings aren’t made then it can go quickly wrong so I’m quite happy that it’s been stable this season.”
Looking ahead to next season, Kilbane hopes PNE can continue the stability that Grayson has instilled into his side.
“I’d take another season of stability next season. I think another top-ten finish or certainly around mid-table would be a fantastic achievement.
“It’s about stability over a long period of time rather than instant success to get to the Premier League though you never know in the Championship.
“Burnley and Blackpool have proved in recent years that teams with smaller budgets can get promoted so I think Preston could do it. I’d love to see Preston in the Premier League.”
The former North End player reflected on his time at Deepdale and how the academy has changed since he left.
“Coming through at Preston was a different era because most academy players now are almost professional at nine or 10 but for me you could only sign for a club at 14 so it was a different system.
“It was a thoroughly enjoyable experience. I came through during probably our most successful spell in Preston’s history for producing players – Chris Holland who went on to play for Newcastle was in my youth team as well as Paul McKenna and David Lucas so we had relative success over a short period of time.”
Kilbane also enjoyed a very successful international career making 110 appearances for the Republic of Ireland.
“I was called up for England when I was 18 but I grew up Irish and my family are all Irish.
“I wanted to play for Ireland as a boy and I supported them in Euro ’88 and Italia ’90 when I was growing up so it was never in my thoughts to play for England really.
“I was as proud to get my first cap as my 110th and I can’t believe I got so many caps. It made my whole family proud and to play so many times was a pleasure for me.”