This article is part of Football League World’s ‘FLW Greats’ series, this content strand is where we look back on a player’s individual season and discuss how impressive they were…
David Nugent has had a long and fruitful career in League Two, the Championship and even the Premier League, but perhaps his most memorable season came in 2006/07 for Preston North End in the Championship.
After signing from Bury for the 2005/06 season, Nugent’s first year at Deepdale was very prosperous as he made the jump up two tiers to the Championship and managed 10 league goals in 32 appearances for the club.
However, after showing an awful lot of promise in his first season at the club, the 2006/07 campaign is where the striker’s season really took off as he managed to make waves in the Championship, proving he was destined for Premier League football.
Managed by Paul Simpson, the Lilywhites were looking at mounting another play-off push after losing to Leeds United in the previous term’s play-off semis.
There was already growing interest in the 21-year-old going into the season and his performances throughout the campaign only heightened his stock.
Preston started the season with two games without victory as they drew to Sheffield Wednesday and lost against Norwich City, but when their first win of the season came in the third match, Nugent opened his account for the term. An away trip to Molineux to face a Wolves side with similar promotion prospects saw the visitors come out with a 3-1 triumph, thanks to a Nugent brace. A volley on the turn from the forward levelled matters for Preston before he put the away side in the lead with a 20-yard strike in the second-half.
Can you get full marks in this higher or lower challenge?
A seven-game goal drought followed for Nugent in the league as Preston stretched their unbeaten run to an eventual eleven games, but he ended his poor run away to Ipswich Town when his volley helped spark a brilliant comeback at Portman road to end the game 2-3, having been 2-0 down at half-time.
Nugent’s tidy finishing was beginning to see the Lilywhites pick up results and his next goal scoring performances was a match-winning one as Preston welcomed their play-off nemeses, Leeds, to Deepdale, now facing a side that were freefalling towards relegation. Nugent scored one and set up two to help the hosts to a 4-1 thumping.
Some patchy form was then ended around the festive period for Nugent when he netted seven goals in seven games between the 23rd December and the end of January. Obviously, with such good performances coming, in the January transfer window there was bound to be interest in his services, but Simpson managed to hold onto his star player for the rest of the season.
A very poor run in the second half of the season put Preston’s play-off push at serious risk of failure as they lost six of their last eight games in the league, but the performances of Nugent were seeing him gain an awful lot of recognition from above, with Premier League teams circling. However, what was most telling of his form was that he managed a callup to the England senior squad for a UEFA Euro 2008 qualifier against Andorra. With the score at 2-0 to the Three Lions, Nugent came on as a late substitute and added a third in comical circumstances as he prodded home a goal bound Jermaine Defoe effort, that was millimetres from crossing the line.
On his return to club duty, Nugent only managed one goal and one assist in his last eight games, but his efforts were enough to see him seal a summer move to the Premier League with Portsmouth.
Nugent’s career never lived up to the promise of the 2006/07 campaign that he had, but Preston probably wouldn’t have been as near the play-offs as they were if he wasn’t around.