Simon Grayson: Is He Preston's Saviour or Blackpool's Agent?

After just 13 months, Graham Westley was shown the exit door at Deepdale in yet another managerial casualty at the club. However, in Grayson, Preston have a boss that has the capability to guide the Lilywhites into the Championship.
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After just 13 months, Graham Westley was shown the exit door at Deepdale in yet another managerial casualty at the club. However, in Grayson, Preston have a boss that has the capability to guide the Lilywhites into the Championship.

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Well, it's that time of year again. Every winter of recent times, Preston North End sack a manager. In 2009 it was Alan Irvine, 2010 saw Darren Ferguson leave the club, while Phil Brown met his end in 2011. 2012 may've been a sacking-free year, Graham Westley's turbulent stint in charge duly ended last week after a 3-1 thumping at high fliers Yeovil.

It's a sorry sign of the decline of Preston North End. Each of those managers were lured in by the size of the club, and the potential of rebuilding a team that is punching well below it's weight. Each of those managers have found the task too difficult to achieve.

There are a number of factors that have hampered all of them though. A player-power culture, a relatively small budget and an impatient fanbase - who’ve had to watch on as local rivals Blackburn, Blackpool and Burnley experienced Premier League football - all contributed to early exits for a string of managers.

Westley's spell in charge was well documented. Arriving at a club paying out Championship wages to League One standard players, he took a very brash approach with the squad he inherited. Subsequently, the squad lashed back and, according to Westley, a number of players leaked the lineup to opposing Sheffield Wednesday before a game.

A summer of mass exodus commenced - only goalkeeper Thorsten Stuckmann, defender Bailey Wright and Will Hayhurst remained at the club from before Westley's arrival. Despite building his own squad, Westley couldn't turn results around and after just two league wins since the beginning of November, owner Trevor Hemmings finally lost patience and sacked the former Stevenage boss after just 13 months in the job.

In his place comes a familiar face - former Huddersfield and Leeds United manager Simon Grayson. The 43 year old has only been out of work for around three weeks, but Grayson finds himself back in Lancashire having made his name as the boss of Preston's fierce rivals, Blackpool.

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The appointment of a young manager who has three promotions from League One should have been met with widespread joy, but opinion on the latest man at the helm is somewhat divided.

A number of fans are sceptical over the appointment, and the overriding theme is that his links to “them with the tower”, as former boss Gary Peters regularly coined them, is too much to look past. In fact, Blackpool fans are already starting the “Agent Grayson” line, which Preston fans may well be concerned about - other former Blackpool players have managed the club in Paul Simpson and Phil Brown, and both were unmitigated disasters.

But the bottom line is that Preston have spent many years listening to people who 'talk a good game'. Ferguson, Brown and Westley all liked the sound of their own voices, and ultimately failed to translate that into results. With this appointment, they have brought in a man with a great track record and a man who believes in performances on the pitch rather than interesting soundbites.

The squad Grayson inherits isn't one devoid of quality, but one that has been bereft of confidence. Saturday's 2-0 win over league leaders Bournemouth was their first since New Year's Day, but it showed that they have the talent to challenge at the top end of League One. It's now Grayson's job to turn his three promotions into four.

Obviously, such a job will require time. Preston currently sit 17 points off the playoff places and nervously glancing over their shoulder, just eight points clear of danger. Grayson's immediate task is to make sure Preston avoid relegation, but the appointment gives fans hope that they will return to the Championship sooner rather than later. With a fanbase desperate for success, it's important for all of the fans to show their support and back Grayson.

So to all Preston fans, remember; It's where you're going - not where you've come from.