Trailblazing Preston footballers honoured at last

They paved the way for women’s football, but over the years have received little recognition or support – not least from the FA, who banned them from pitches, saying that the game was “quite unsuitable for females”.

But 100 years since they were formed, the Dick, Kerr Ladies FC are finally being honoured with a blue plaque.

Formed as a morale-boosting exercise during the First World War, the team became hugely popular, drawing a crowd of 53,000 when they played St Helen’s at Everton’s Goodison Park in 1920.

But their success attracted detractors, and in 1921 the Football Association banned women’s football from being played in FA grounds.

The ban lasted until 1971 and changed the face of women’s football forever.

But on Thursday, the ladies finally achieved the recognition they deserved with a blue plaque – used to mark historic achievements – erected at the Alstom Factory on Strand Road, where the team was formed.

David Taylor, pro-chancellor and chairman of the board at the University of Central Lancashire, which helped organise the plaque, said: “The Dick, Kerr Ladies story is a key part of Preston’s sporting heritage. In our role as a civic university, we are delighted to work alongside Gail and the many other hard working volunteers to highlight and commemorate the amazing achievements of these pioneering women.

“The Dick, Kerr Ladies all came from very traditional working class backgrounds and became the most successful women’s football team in history. For the people who live, work and study in our city, their success is something we should warmly celebrate.

“We have already given our backing to establishing a bronze relief in Preston to further celebrate these amazing sporting trailblazers and look forward to working with Gail on several other events planned this year to mark the Dick, Kerr Ladies centenary year.”

Gail Newsham, author of In a League of Their Own: A History of Dick, Kerr Ladies FC, said: “I have been championing the Dick, Kerr Ladies for 25 years. No other town or city in the world can boast the proud history of this pioneering team. I have always believed in them and been in awe of their success.

“They certainly deserve this long overdue honour. This blue plaque is the first in the world for the best in the world.

“Words cannot express how thrilled I am for them today.”

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Fitzgerald wins at the Guild Hall

Preston boxer Scott Fitzgerald made a triumphant debut at the Guild Hall on Saturday night.

The reigning Commonweath Games champion was far too strong for his Russian opponent Andrej Cepur.

The 25-year-old claimed victory via a fourth-round stoppage in front of raucous home crowd.

It was the first time Fitzgerald had fought in his home town as a professional and he certainly put on a show for an expectant crowd.

The Jennings Gym ace dominated the fight from start to finish as Cepur came under attack from a barrage of shots.

Scott Fitzgerald hands out some punishment to Andrej Cepur

The 30-year-old, who lives in Lithuania, was unable to muster any sort of attack himself as Fitzgerald dominated the centre of the ring.

In the end, the referee brought an end to proceedings in the fourth.

Fitzgerald improved his overall record to six pro wins out of six, with four stoppages.

He also picked up his first belt in the paid ranks – the International Classic Challenge title.

“I kept thinking he was going to go down,” Fitzgerald said.

“I hit him with a few body shots and got him with a few head shots.

“I head him moan and wince a few times, but all credit to him, it was hard to find the gaps.

“It’s nice to get a little title at the Guild Hall, quite a few people came down to watch.”

Meanwhile, fellow Preston fighter Ben Swarbrick had to settle for a draw with Craig Derbyshire after the pair shared the four rounds of their bantamweight contest.

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New PNE training ground reflects club’s Premier League ambitions

It is a training complex fit for the Premier League.

And here for the first time is how Preston North End’s new state- of-the-art facility at Ingol Village Golf Club will look both inside and out.

The striking images illustrate the club’s ambition to return to the top flight of English football after more than half a century in the lower divisions.

Bosses say the new training centre is “imperative” if North End are to fulfil their dream of playing in the big league and competing with the best.

A full application has now gone into the city council for approval, along with plans for up to 450 homes and a large public park – the first to be donated to Preston in more than 100 years.

At the same time, the club has asked Town Hall officials if it needs special approval to flatten the current office block adjacent to the stadium in Sir Tom Finney Way and replace it with extra car parking spaces.

A club spokesman told the Post: “Preston North End Football Club has made tremendous progress over the last few years in both restoring our Championship status and sorting out the financial stability of the club.

“As we push forward in our aim of becoming a Premier League club – a status that would bring substantial financial rewards to the city as a whole – it is imperative that our training facilities are of a standard and quality to enable us to attract and retain the right football talent.

proposed new training ground facility

“The current planning application for a mixed development, including a new training HQ, is fundamental to our ability to achieve our ambitions.

“Once the application is successful and the training HQ built, which we hope will be completed in time for the 2018/19 season, the current administrative building at Deepdale will be demolished to provide additional car parking, which will then allow key personnel to relocate to the new training centre at Ingol.”

According to a planning statement by architects the Frank Whittle Partnership, the proposed development aims to provide PNE with a “high-quality, purpose-built first team training facility in line with the club’s aspirations of playing in a higher tier of English football.”

It says the scheme “will enable the club to continue to evolve the training of its team and encourage growth by providing the needed training space required to attract high-calibre football players.”

Because of the rural nature of the site, the design is intended to “respect and enhance the setting.” The main building will have a curved wildflower green roof to blend in with the landscape.

PNE manager Simon Grayson said when the plans were first unveiled: “It speaks volumes for the club that we’re trying to keep on moving forward year in, year out.

“We’ve got some good facilities at Springfields but trying to get even more modern ones can only help.

“Your facilities at this level have to be very good because the players are here for 10 months of the season and it can only help attract new players as well so hopefully we’ll get the go-ahead to do it and we can get in there very quickly.

“It’s really pleasing we’re moving forward as a club and hopefully this can develop.”

The training complex will occupy 25-acres of a 172-acre site.

The rest of the land will form a new public park – twice the size of Avenham Park and the first to be gifted to the city in more than 100 years – in addition to the new housing development.

Under government guidelines, the city council will only be able to give planning permission if it can be demonstrated the golf course is surplus to requirements in the Preston area where there are 14 other courses within a 20-minute drive.

A Golf Needs Assessment study, which forms part of the application, has concluded that the club, which has suffered a 34 per cent drop in membership in the past two years, is not needed.

Artist's impression of PNE's new training complex

New training centre

Preston is planning on splashing out millions to give Simon Grayson and his senior squad the very best facilities to prepare for an assault on the Premier League.

The plans submitted to the council show the complex will have everything the players need on one site, together with accommodation for some of the club’s admin staff.

The development includes a full-size grass training pitch, a floodlit full-size hybrid pitch, two slightly smaller grass pitches and two five-a-side pitches. It also has a 61-metre by 43-metre indoor artificial grass pitch.

There will be a one kilometre trim trail and cycle track and a gymnasium with adjacent treatment room and physiotherapy office.

The changing room will have interconnected showers and toilets, with a treatment ice bath and jacuzzi. There will be additional changing rooms for visitors, officials and coaches.

The complex will have a dining and relaxation room, match analysis/team meeting room, manager’s and assistant manager’s office, a coaches and analytical staff office and a boot room, laundry room, kit room and equipment store.

The scheme also provides a home for most of the club’s admin team, with an open plan office, four private offices, a meeting room and kitchen, staff room and archive, storage and print rooms.

There will be space for 40 cars, room for 10 cycles and a site maintenance building and yard. The whole complex will be surrounded by a 2.4-metre high fence and access will be via a security gatehouse.

Office block demolition

PNE admin staff are to lose their office base next door to the Deepdale Stadium if plans for demolition are approved.

The club intends to relocate most of its staff into purpose-built accommodation at the new training complex in Ingol and bulldoze the old office block to make way for extra car parking spaces.

The staff have worked from the existing single-storey building on Sir Tom Finney Way since the club took over the former snooker club and Legends nightclub around 15 years ago.

At one time the building housed the Preston North End Supporters Club and also a snooker hall.

More recently the premises were shared by the club’s admin offices and the PNE shop which moved into the main stadium building last July.

Demolition is planned after the completion of the new training centre.

Staff will be relocated to Ingol, with a small number of the workforce being accommodated in the Deepdale Stadium itself.

Springfields training ground

North End’s current training ground at Lea will continue to be used by the club after the first team have moved out to Ingol.

The club’s youth academy will remain at Springfields in Dodney Drive.

A statement to the planning committee says the need to move the senior squad to the purpose-built facility at the golf club is because the Lea site is unable to be brought up to the level required.

“The need to relocate from Springfields Sports Ground is due to space constraints at the current facility and what is needed to be delivered in order to provide a training facility of the highest standard,” says the report.

“Springfields is tightly constrained by Savick Brook to the north and residential dwellings to the south. The land itself is within Flood Zone 3 which places a constraint on future development. The neighbouring land has been considered, but is not readily available and is also constrained by similar flood risks.”

Ingol village golf club

The 25-acre training centre will occupy land currently used for holes 12, 13, 14 and 15 of the golf course.

PNE owner Trevor Hemmings bought the club in 1985, but in recent years it has struggled to attract members and closed in 2010.

The plans have proved controversial with locals.

The Ingol Golf Residents Association held a public meeting on February 23 at Preston Grasshoppers

Nearly 200 people from the surrounding areas in Ingol and Fulwood voiced their anger against the latest proposals. A raft of objections has already been submitted to Preston City Council.

Chairman of IGVRA Bruce Ellison said the group were angry with the plans to build 450 homes on the current Ingol Golf Club to help fund the training facility and labelled the move as ‘underhand.’

He said: “I’m exceedingly disappointed following two planning enquiries and refusal of the plans to see a third one put in.

“These latest plans go against everything the National Policy Framework, the Central Lancashire Strategy and Preston City Council’s own local plan.

“The people who buy these ‘proposed’ homes will be paying for a training facility they will have no access to.”

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#whitetowel – Match report and final thoughts

Tony Bellew beats David Haye!

Haye manages to land a right hand and remind the crowd that he is still dangerous, but a moment later he throws himself through a high left jab, misses, and falls to the floor. He gets to his feet but finally Bellew hits Haye down to the floor! He falls out of the ring and through the ropes, and tries to pull himself to his feet as the referee counts, but can barely get there. As he finally stands, his corner throw in the towel!

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Haye was crouched against the ropes as Bellew landed a left hand to the top of the head which finally put the 36-year-old down. The victor shakes off his promoter and trainer to embrace his opponent. A left hook to the side of the head was the final blow for Haye. Bellew said Haye’s physical ailments would catch up with him and he was proved right. Both fighters embrace at the end of the fight, Bellew knows he has taken out a sitting duck there. Haye feel through the ropes, and may have just got back up before the count but his corner threw in the towel. Bellew in tears. That is surely one of the biggest upsets in British boxing history.

Tony Bellew stopped a hobbling David Haye in the 11th round to ruin the former world champion’s return to the ring and shock the boxing world.

Bellew capitalised on Haye’s inability to move properly after he seemed to suffer a leg injury midway through the fight. Haye looked unbalanced and at times struggled to defend himself, but managed to hang in the fight despite hitting the canvas a number of times.

The Evertonian ground him down though and could eventually celebrate when Haye’s corner threw in the towel in the 11th round.

The buildup had been dominated by an ugly war of words but the fighters warmly embraced at the end of the bout.

Pre match reports

David Haye says he will provide “a real destruction job” against Tony Bellew on Saturday, who says he wants to win “by any means necessary”.

The coming together of David Haye and Tony Bellew on the first day of their fight week went off without a hitch  in Liverpool, but the pair were kept apart by a sturdy phalanx of security men, most of whom were a good deal bigger than the two warring heavyweights.

Contrary to expectation, no steel fence was in place to keep the pair apart, five days before they meet at the O2 Arena in London in one of the most hateful grudge matches in British boxing history.

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Fitzy all set to fulfil childhood ambition

Scott Fitzgerald will realise a childhood dream when he boxes at the iconic Guild Hall in his home city of Preston later this month.

The 25-year-old star will be the headline act on the show which takes place on Saturday, March 11.

Billed as ‘The Homecoming’ – it will be the first time Fitzgerald has fought on home soil since gloriously winning gold at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games in 2014.

And boasting a formidable and growing fan-base, the Jennings Gym-trained star can look forward to a packed-out Guild Hall for his sixth professional fight.

“When I was 13 or 14-years old before I started boxing myself, I remember going to watch some of the shows that they used to hold at the Guild Hall,” said Fitzgerald, who has yet to discover the identity of his opponent.

“Even if they were just amateur events, I always remember them being really good shows with great atmospheres.

“They then stopped holding boxing shows at the Guild Hall for a while, so it’s special for me to be given the chance to top the bill there as a professional.

“We’ve sold quite a lot of tickets – it’s going to be packed out.

“It’s going to be great to box in front of a home crowd and so many friends and family.”

Fitzgerald was ringside at the Guild Hall in January for the middleweight showdown between Preston’s Mick Hall and Blackpool’s Jack Arnfield and he was impressed with the set-up.

“I was at the Arnfield-versus-Hall fight the other week and I thought it was a great atmosphere,” he said.

“I really enjoyed it and hopefully it will be like that when I fight there.

“It’a a great venue for boxing – nice and intimate – so I am really buzzing about it, I can’t wait to get going now.”

Since turning pro at the back end of 2015, Fitzgerald has won all five of his fights in the paid ranks.

However, his lasting outing against Adam Jones at the Liverpool Arena was far from straightforward after he was sent to the canvas in the third round before eventually securing victory.

“I wouldn’t say I was pleased with my performance, but I was happy to get through the fight,” said Fitzgerald. “It was the kick up the backside that I needed.

“It made me realise that everybody has got two arms and two legs and can have a go.

“Looking back at the fight, I still won every round apart from the one that I got put down in.”

Also appearing on the bill at the Guild Hall is a host of local talent, including Ben Swarbrick, Shakeeb Ali, Adam Simpson, Jack Cullen and Ryan Davies.

For tickets – which are priced between £40 and £100 – please contact 07708372832.

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PNE focus on the kids

Preston’s youngsters will take centre stage at Deepdale on Monday night when they bid to reach the semi-final of the FA Youth Cup.

The PNE academy host Stoke (7pm) and admission is free in a bid to attract as big a crowd as possible.

It is the first time in 50 years that North End have reached the quarter-finals and awaiting

the winners in the last four are Manchester City, who beat Aston Villa on Wednesday night. Nick Harrison’s side have won three home games to get this far, beating Sheffield United, Everton and AFC Wimbledon.

A penalty from skipper Melle Meulensteen got them past the Blades, with Preston beating Everton on penalties after a goalless draw.

Their 3-2 extra-time win over AFC Wimbledon was a thriller, goals from Josh Earl, Meulensteen and Alex Wood sending them through.

Academy boss Harrison said: “The lads have shown what they are capable of and have grown in confidence over the three games.

“They have worked very hard, stayed together, played some good football and done the right things at the right times.

“In two of the games they have dug deep in extra time and the work ethic was there for all to see.

“Against AFC Wimbledon they fell behind in extra time but showed the character to equalise and get the
winner.

“We’ve got a good mix of lads, more first years than
second years, which stands us in good stead for the future.”

Opponents Stoke battled back from being 2-0 down against Brighton in the last round to draw 2-2 and go through on penalties.

Harrison said: “We have watched them two or three times and know what they are capable of.

“Stoke are a strong team with some very good players and that will always be the case when you get down to the quarter-finals.

“I’m looking forward to the game and it is a great achievement for the lads to have got this far.

“They have put the work in and if they play with the right intensity on Monday, they will have every chance.
“We’ve got this far under the radar a bit, now we are getting more coverage.

“This is the first time for 50 years that the club have reached this round and we won’t want it to stop now.”
Preston manager Simon Grayson has watched the youth team’s progress with keen interest.

“It is fantastic for them to be in the last eight. I’ve been to all the games and they have knocked out some big teams,” said Grayson.

“Both Sheffield United and Everton have strong academies – Everton are a category one team.

“Wimbledon were strong and powerful in the previous round.

“The lads have experienced different things, taking the lead and falling behind before coming back to win, holding their nerve in a shoot-out.

“Hopefully they can get to the semi-final.

“If they do that it will be fantastic for the kids, Nick Harrison and Andy Fensome, who have represented the club really well.

“We have the lads down training with us quite a bit.

“On Wednesday morning there were three lads with the first-team squad. On Tuesday there were three different ones here.

“I’m not frightened of adding them into the squad, there are some decent kids coming through.”

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Ben Pearson exclusive column

Iam all too aware that I am edging ever closer to a trip down to London to discuss my on-field disciplinary record.

The caution I received on Tuesday night against Birmingham City was my 12th of the season.

I have already served two suspensions this season – a one-game ban for picking up five bookings and then I missed two games last month after I was shown my 10th yellow card in the FA Cup game against Arsenal.

The latest indiscretion means I am now just three cautions away from a three-game ban and a probable fine from the FA.

I think with my combative style of play, picking up yellow cards is an occupational hazard but I know there are certain elements of my game I could improve upon.

I can cut out the ones that I pick up for dissent and that would probably mean five or six bookings less per season.

So that is something that I am looking to work on, but it is all a learning curve for me.

I am 22-years-old – still quite young – and I do get frustrated at times with other players and the referee during games.

But with experience, I think that area of my game will sort itself out.

I don’t get too much stick off the rest of the lads about my disciplinary record.

There’s a bit of banter flying around about me and Greg Cunningham having a competition, because he’s gone over the 10-bookings mark too.

I am just going to keep going over the rest of the season, play my normal game and not worry too much about getting booked.

If the three-game suspension comes, it comes. I will certainly not be in the business of avoiding any 50/50 challenges this weekend when we travel to face Wigan Athletic for a big derby encounter.

These are the types of games that suit my style – lots of energy and there will probably be a few tackles flying in.

Let’s hope I manage to stay out of the referee’s notebook.

I believe there will be almost 5,000 fans in the away end at the DW Stadium, which should create a terrific atmosphere.

We have been particularly good at beating our local rivals over the past couple of seasons. I think we collected maximum points from the away derbies last season and this year we have beaten both Wigan and Blackburn at home already.

With a trip to Ewood Park to come next month as well, it will be nice to keep the winning record over our neighbours intact.

The Latics won their last game, so will have confidence and they are fighting to get out of the Championship relegation zone.

I think the pressure will be on them a bit more than it will be on us, so that could help us get the right result.

It is an exciting game and one we are all looking forward.

Hopefully we can put a performance in for the fans and continue our recent good form.

The past week have been really good for us – picking up two wins at Deepdale against Brentford on Saturday and Birmingham City on Tuesday night.

I would say they were two of our best performances of the season – certainly in the second half against Brentford and the first half against Birmingham.

I think the only disappointing thing about the game on Tuesday night was the fact that we did not score more than the two goals.

The gaffer said after the game that we should have been out of sight at half-time with the amount of clear chances we created.

That has been a curse of ours I think this season. We do seem to miss a few chances and the scoreline really should have been three or four nil.

As it was, instead of having the game done and dusted at half-time, we only had the one goal through Callum Robinson and it still meant we had a lot to do in the second half.

And sure enough, we were hit by a sucker-punch straight after half-time when City forward Che Adams
volleyed an half-chance into the bottom corner.

It was a bit of a blow especially as up until then we had been so dominant. But we kept going and managed to get the winner through
Jordan Hugill.

I think what has been surprising this week is that despite picking up maximum points, we haven’t gained any ground on the teams in the play-off places.

That is the Championship for you, but we’ve just got to concentrate on keeping our performance levels high and see if we can sneak into a play-off spot.

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