Preston North End are looking to finish the 2019/20 season inside the Championship play-off places, with the Lilywhites currently in sixth place in the table and hoping to potentially earn promotion to the Premier League.
The Lilywhites have come close to securing promotion to the Premier League since the Millennium, with Preston having missed out on promotion via the Championship play-offs on three occasions inside the first ten years of the Millennium, which leaves them still waiting for their moment to re-join the English top flight.
The club have even spent a few seasons in League One following on from their performances and results taking a downturn between 2011 and 2015, but since they were promoted back to the Championship in the 2014/15 season they have started to look like they can challenge for promotion to the Premier League again.
There have been many notable players to have played for Preston during that period, with some providing Preston supporters with memories that they will always remember fondly at Deepdale, whereas others have come and gone who have not been as impressive.
With the EFL season suspended until at least the end of April we are working out the best Preston XI since the turn of the Millennium, and we start that off today with a look at the goalkeeping department.
Here then, we take a look at the four best goalkeepers to have played for the Lilywhites since 2000, and at the end there will be an opportunity for you to cast your vote on who you feel has been the best keeper for Preston so far this millennium…
Andy Lonergan (2000-2011)
It would be impossible to compose a list of Preston’s best keepers this Millennium and not offer a sizeable mention to Andy Lonergan, who spent over a decade at Deepdale from the turn of the Millennium, where he was initially David Lucas for a place in the side having come through the club’s youth academy.
Lonergan was handed his debut as a 16-year-old by David Moyes in League Cup tie away against Coventry City and he made an impression despite shipping four goals, before he was sent out on spells on loan at both Darlington and Blackpool in the next few seasons, before he came back into the first team squad for the 2002/03 campaign.
The keeper then returned to Deepdale to try and establish himself as the club’s first choice between the sticks over the next few years, but he faced strong competition from Carlo Nash and also spent some time out of the side through injury.
It was in the 2007/08 campaign that Lonergan really emerged as the club’s first choice after winning his place in the side following Wayne Hennessey picking up an injury, and he made 43 appearances as the club finished 15th in the Championship – and he followed that up by being an ever present the following campaign and winning the Player of the Year Award, as the Lilywhites reached the play-offs.
He remained the go to option between the sticks for the next two seasons, but was ultimately unable to prevent the Lilywhites from being relegated to League One at the end of the 2010/11 season, before he left to join Leeds United.
QUIZ: These 15 players played for both Preston and Burnley – True or false?
Thorsten Stuckmann (2011-2015)
Stuckmann was brought in to Deepdale in 2011 as the club looked to try and find a reliable first choice keeper to replace the loss of Lonergan, and the German managed to make a real impression during his first few months with the club, gaining a reputation of being something of a penalty saving expert.
However, with Preston bringing in the likes of Declan Rudd and Sam Johnstone on loan during the 2013/14 and 2014/15 seasons, Stuckmann found himself often amongst the substitutes, but he still offered a reliable presence between the sticks whenever he was called upon.
The keeper was often called into action in the cup competitions and rarely let the Lilywhites down in those matches, although ultimately his time at the club will probably be remembered more for the odd good game than his overall consistency.
Declan Rudd (2013-2014 and 2017 to present)
Preston’s current first choice between the sticks is Declan Rudd, and the keeper also spent time out on loan with the Lilywhites during the 2012/13 season where he made 14 appearances for the Lilywhites during a spell on loan from Norwich City.
The following season saw the keeper again move to Deepdale on loan for the season, and he was an ever present for Preston and he conceded just 46 league goals throughout the campaign, as the Lilywhites finished the season in 5th place, before going onto lose to Rotherham United in the play-off semi-finals.
Rudd would spend time back with his parent club Norwich the following season, before he went out on loan to Charlton Athletic for the 2016/17 campaign, but he eventually returned to Deepdale on a permanent deal in the summer of 2017 and he has gone onto establish himself as the current number one.
Jordan Pickford (2015-2016)
Jordan Pickford was not at Preston for very long, but he makes this list in part to how his career has progressed in the years since, with the keeper having established himself as England’s first choice goalkeeper under Gareth Southgate, playing a crucial role in the Three Lions reaching the semi-finals of the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
However, Pickford was also an impressive performer between the sticks during a loan spell with Preston in the 2015/16 season, pulling of a number of impressive saves and also showing his quality with the ball at his feet, which perhaps made him the most talented keeper to play for the Lilywhites so far this millennium.
Pickford went onto make 24 appearances for the Lilywhites during his one and only season on loan with Preston, but his form at Deepdale convinced Sunderland that he had the ability to be their number one keeper in the Premier League the following season.
Who gets your vote?