By Neil Fissler
STEVE WILKINSON was a prolific goalscorer in the lower divisions and was the ideal signing for Preston’s bid to climb out of Division Three.
North End, under manager Gary Peters and with David Moyes in central defence, had made steady progress the previous season but were knocked out of the play-offs by Lancashire rivals Bury.
Peters, backed by the Baxi-Partnership, was given funds to win promotion and set his stall out by signing Wilkinson and fellow striker Andy Saville.
After a poor start it clicked into place and Preston went on a 13 match unbeaten run from September until January which transformed them into serious contenders.
Saville fired 29 goals and Wilkinson another ten as they overcame a little stumble in the finishing straight, dropping from first to second after losing to Northampton Town.
But winning the last three matches 2-0 against Orient, Hartlepool and Exeter was enough to clinch the title and Wilkinson says it was more comfortable than it looked at some stages.
“It wasn’t until the end of September that we added our away form to some really good home form and we slowly started to climb the league,” he said.
“The game that started the run was against Chester and at the time they were first or second.
“It was a significant win and gave us all lots of confidence that we were heading in the right direction. Myself and Andy Saville scored. It was that game that kick-started the partnership as well as the season.
“Before that we had several new faces in the team that needed to settle in and for it all to click into place.
“From a personal point of view, scoring my first league goal for Preston at Deepdale gave me a lot more confidence.
“So it was a combination of things that all started to work on the same day.
“We scored a lot of goals that season and the football was a pleasure to be part of.
“Towards the end of the season it looked as if it was going to be a bit tricky but then we won our last three games.
“It was more comfortable than it looked with five or six games to go and we really stepped up when it mattered.”
1. Gareth Ainsworth: Has been Wycombe Wanderers boss since April 2013 after twice being QPR’s caretaker boss.
2. Lee Cartwright: Has worked for Northern Care as a care worker at a children’s home in Clayton-le-Moors.
3. Simon Davey: Went into management with Darlington, Barnsley and Hereford before travelling to America where he is now North American director for Concept 4 Soccer International.
4. Allan Smart: Was head of youth development at Southport and Blackburn and worked with under privileged kids in the Trafford area before moving south and is now academy manager of Farnborough.
5. Barry Richardson: Is now the Wycombe goalkeeping coach. He has also worked for Lincoln City, Nottingham Forest, Peter- borough and Doncaster.
6. David Lucas: He is the Fleetwood goalkeeping coach under former teammates Graham Alexander and Chris Lucketti.
7. John Vaughan: He was goalkeeping coach at Huddersfield Town for six years and is now working for Birmingham City.
8. Steve Wilkinson: Lliving in Loughborough and works as a course leader for sport and active leisure at Loughborough College
9. Kevin Magee: Lives in Broxburn, West Lothian and has worked as a concreter in Cumnock, Ayrshire.
10. Graeme Atkinson: A lecturer at Myerscough College, provides stats for the Press Association and is a performance analyst for the ECFA Colleges.
11. Geoff McDougall: He went onto become head of youth recruitment at Bolton, Leeds United and now Blackburn Rovers.
12. Brian Hickson: Loyal club servant who was the kit man for many years.
13. Paul Raynor: Has worked under Steve Evans at Boston United, Crawley and now Rotherham.
14. Ryan Kidd: Has held various coaching posts in the north and is now back at Bury as under-18 boss.
15. Andy Saville: Back living in his home town of Hull and working as a postman.
16. Jamie Squires: Enjoyed a long career with Bamber Bridge and is living and working in Preston.
17. John Calligan: Believed to be living and working in North Wales.
18. Steve Holmes: Back living in his native Middlesbrough and running a rock paving business.
19. Kevin Kilbane: Went on to play in the Premier League and for the Republic of Ireland. Now working in the media after obtaining a degree from Staffordshire University.
20. Mick Rathbone: The former head of sports medicine at Everton now runs a sports injury clinic in Blackburn.
21. Jim Parker: He went on to work in his own private physiotherapist practise.
22. Joe Jakub: Lives in Denbigh, Clwyd and has been a youth coach, worked for a company supplying windows and doors, and provided stats for the Press Association.
23. Chris Borwick: Is still living and working in the Preston area.
24. Terry Fleming: Has managed Lincoln United and is now assistant manager of Sleaford Town.
25. Andy Fensome: Worked alongside Davey at Hereford and Barnsley, has coached in Australia and America and is professional development phase coach at Preston.
26. David Moyes: Manchester United manager after leaving Everton in June 2013.
27. Gary Peters: Gave David Beckham his debut, is now football consultant to Midas Sports Management; also has property interests.
28. Ian Bryson: Has coached at Preston’s centre of excellence, worked as a floor manager for Premier League Productions and works in the local media.
29. Graham Lancashire: He was a fund raiser for SpeedMark and is academy operations manager with Burnley.
30. Mickey Brown: Has worked as personal trainer, social worker, then had a spell as Shrewsbury’s fitness coach. He has also modelled men’s underwear.
31. Ray Sharp: Now back in Scotland and works in the Dunfermline area.
32. Chris Sully: He has coached at Blackburn, Bolton, Leeds, also lectured at University of Central Lancashire and is now working in Everton’s academy.