Brig’s big day for ex-PNE ace McKenna

McKenna at the Sir Tom Finney Stadium during training ahead of the FA Cup clash with Chorley
McKenna at the Sir Tom Finney Stadium during training ahead of the FA Cup clash with Chorley
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Former Preston North End captain Paul McKenna is hoping to put one over on his home-town club on Saturday.

The 36-year-old will line-up for new club Bamber Bridge for their huge FA Cup third qualifying-round tie against neighbours Chorley.

McKenna – who surprised the football world a couple of weeks ago by signing for Brig, ending a self-imposed year-long exile from the game – hails from the small village of Eccleston and played representative football for Chorley as a schoolboy.

He admits to always keeping an eye on the Magpies’ fortunes over the years and has been delighted by the club’s success in recent seasons under Garry Flitcroft.

Since the former Blackburn Rovers skipper took over the reins at Victory Park in 2010, Chorley have enjoyed two promotions and are now just two steps away from becoming a Football League club.

McKenna accepts that he and his Brig team-mates – who reside in the NPL First Division North, which is two divisions below their opponents this weekend – will be massive underdogs when the game gets under way.

But with an expected 2,000-plus crowd expected at the Sir Tom Finney Stadium, McKenna believes Brig are capable of rising to the occasion and upsetting the odds.

“I’m a Chorley lad,” McKenna told Evening Post.

“I played for Chorley schoolboys’ team on Victory Park.

“It’s nice to see the club doing so well. It’s great to see all the locals clubs doing well.

“I’m a big fan of what Chorley are doing and long may that continue – apart from Saturday of course!

“Hopefully we can cause an upset. But we know they are a good team.

“We have, as a team, spoken about them already. They are flying at the moment in their division and have a great up-and-coming manager in Garry Flitcroft.

“He obviously has a lot of good contacts and can attract good players to the club.

“The thing is nobody has ploughed loads of money into the club – they have done it and got to where they are on merit and fair play to them.”

After winning the NPL Premier Division last season, Chorley have adapted well to life in the Conference North.

They are currently second in the table, four points behind leaders and neighbours AFC Fylde, who ironically were the team which won promotion alongside Chorley last season.

The Magpies entered the competition in the last round due to their elevated status in the football pyramid.

They edged past a spirited North West Counties outfit Glossop North End 1-0 courtesy of a goal from James Dean.

Brig, on the other hand, have had to do it the hard way to reach this stage of the prestigious competition.

After beating Stocksbridge Park Steels 2-0 away from home in the preliminary round, they were taken to a replay and extra time before finally shrugging off the attentions of North West Counties side Squires Gate in the first round of qualifying.

In the next round, they booked their place against Chorley by defeating Workington 1-0 at Borough Park.

McKenna has played in the past three league games for Brig – scoring from a free-kick in Tuesday night’s 3-3 draw with Lancaster City – but he will be making his cup debut for the club on Saturday.

“It’s great for a club like Bamber Bridge to get a draw like this,” McKenna said.

“I think in this one game, they will generate a season’s revenue.

“So it might help Brig build for the future and maybe help them bring in a few players and helps us to promotion. I believe the club is expecting a full house, especially with it being international week.

“It is exciting times – it’s a game which as soon as the draw came out, I have been getting inundated with messages from people.

“A few of the lads who I have been playing amateur football with over the past 18 months will be coming down to watch.

“It’s exciting for the area really – the draw has drummed up quite a lot of interest.

“There should be a good atmosphere.

“It is a nice little ground and when it’s packed, it should be good. I have played three games so far and from a personal point of view, I have done okay. I managed to score a free-kick against Lancaster in midweek, which was nice.

“The club, the players and the management have been great with me since I arrived.

“They’ve all made me feel really welcome.”

My Premier League regret – read more from McKenna in Saturday’s LEP