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Deepdale Hero

Many a great player came through at Deepdale in the early 1960s as the mass retirements that broke up the great side of the 1950s provided opportunities aplenty for the youngsters on the Deepdale books.

Arguably the most successful graduate from the Club's enforced youth policy of the era was striker-turned-winger Peter Thompson, who eventually went on to earn 16 England caps after a high-profile move to Liverpool yielded fruit aplenty.

However, the Carlisle-born wide man, who has just turned 66, insists that none of it would have happened had it not been for his ideal start at Preston.

"PNE were the first club to come in for me after playing for England Schoolboys," he explained. "Though I had my pick with the likes of Arsenal, Chelsea, Sunderland and Newcastle all showing an interest.I had an offer too from Manchester United, but Cliff Britton managed to sell Preston to me. At United, I could see I would be joining a club full of full internationals and under 23 internationals, so I would be in good company but I may not get a chance straight away. At Preston, most of the team was getting old and I was told my chance would come fairly soon, and I think that signing for PNE was one of the best things I ever did.

The season before my debut, I was part of the fabulous side that reached the final of the FA Youth Cup, and I've got some great memories from that run, including the semi-final against Manchester United and the return leg of the final against Chelsea where there were something like 25,000 people inside Deepdale. Then, at the start of the 1960/61 season when Tom Finney had retired, I got the chance to make my debut against Arsenal, and I was a virtual ever present for the next three seasons. There were lots of us youngsters that came in that day, and it wasn't long before I scored my first goal as we beat West Brom. I was chuffed to bits, as it was a dream come true to be making my way in professional football.

"When I came to North End, I knew I'd get that chance - and a better opportunity than if I'd gone to one of the really top clubs where I may have only been in the reserves. The only problem was that we seemed to have too many kids in that side when I first came in, and we ended up getting relegated at the end of that season. I still think coming to North End was a good move, though, and I've got no regrets for having made it. Eventually I decided I needed to leave because I seemed to be going backwards, and I've got to say it was the best decision I ever made. I didn't want to have to leave Preston because I was made to feel so welcome, loved the town, and had so many friends here, but sometimes you just know that you've got to move on, and straight away at Liverpool I was part of a team that became league champions and went on to lift the FA Cup.

I got just one letter at the time - anonymous - saying that I'd betrayed North End, but I hope the Club feel they did well out of me because I arrived for nothing and they were able to sell me on for £40,000, which was a Liverpool club record at the time. I was dead happy at North End except for a lot of the football, which is an important consideration! Once I was at Liverpool, they were so strong at the back that I was able to concentrate on going forward and attacking as a winger, whereas the North End side wasn't doing so well, and it was often difficult to get out of my own half. I always felt I was a useless defender!

Before the move, there was a lot in the papers about me possibly going to Everton along with David Wilson, and there was even word about me going to Juventus, but I never heard anything official - it was probably just paper talk. I've still got the scrapbook with the headlines! The bid eventually came in from Liverpool, and it was possibly something to do with the fact that their manager, Bill Shankly, obviously knew Preston well. He also knew me as a young boy in Carlisle, and we'd also just been involved in the mammoth run of FA Cup games against them the previous season. When we came up against them in the league, they stuffed us 5-0 and it was no contest - men against boys, literally, and it could have been 10-0 - but the cup games were a much tighter affair.

The crowds were huge and the first replay at Deepdale was delayed because of the number of fans trying to get in. I eventually got the winning goal in the second replay at Old Trafford - I think Bill Shankly came in for me thinking he was going to get a goalscorer! Once I was at Liverpool, my England chance came, and though people say that I probably could have played for England even if I'd stayed at North End, I just didn't think it was likely to happen.

I had ten or 11 years at Liverpool and things had gone pretty well until it got to the point where the specialists said I had a bad knee and it was likely to blow up at any time. I couldn't get into the Liverpool side any more, and I was allowed to leave. Deep down I hoped North End would come back in for me - and there was some talk of it - but again I think it was just paper talk and nothing materialised. Instead, Jimmy Armfield came in to take me to Bolton on a month's loan, and I liked it so much I ended up staying five years.

When I finished, I had that inevitable thought - 'what do I do?'. I'd played football to the age of 35 but had no other skills - to this day I still can't wire a three pin plug! Luckily I just kept getting involved in things that seemed to work out. My friend and I bought a caravan park and I was there for seven years, and after that I bought a residential inn up in the Lakes. From there I took on a hotel in Harrogate, and eventually I got out of there and moved to Portugal. I've been here 14 months and I'm still pretty active - I'd certainly rather be here relaxing by the pool with a glass of wine rather than sitting inside in Harrogate!

They're football crazy over here, and I like to remind them that I never lost to Portugal when I was playing for England! The only thing is, my little lad has a problem. He's eligible to play for England, Ireland or Portugal, so he's always pondering which one he should play for, but I have to remind him that he needs to get a club first!"

Copyright - http://www.pnefc.net (The official website of Preston North End)

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