These are testing times for all involved with Preston North End. The team are cut adrift at the bottom of the Championship, manager-less, with one of the smallest squads in the league, facing financial difficulty and struggling to put together any kind of form.Advertisement
Last week Chairman Maurice Lindsay decided to part company with manager Darren Ferguson. After only a year in charge. In fact, it was exactly the same day last year when Alan Irvine left the club, but the decline hasn’t been halted. Ferguson was always going to face an uphill struggle. The financial difficulties have been well documented. In the summer the club was teetering on the brink of administration before Trevor Hemmings stepped in to save the club.
The wage bill of the playing staff has been drastically cut from the levels of recent years; a point Ferguson was keen to put across throughout his reign. One of his key arguments was always the comparison in money he had spent against the amounts splashed out by his predecessors in chasing the holy grail of promotion to the Premier League. Ferguson’s outlay in comparison was pittance to some of the transfer fees paid in the past.
Due to this severe lack of funds and players available, former Peterborough boss Ferguson was heavily reliant on improving the squad via the loan market. The list of loan players coming in to Deepdale this season has been plentiful. The manager often used his father as a go-to for players, borrowing many from Manchester United’s youth system, as well as experienced campaigners in Iain Hume, Danny Pugh, Michael Tonge and Leon Cort. Personally, I feel too many loans and new faces provides no continuity within the squad, and doesn’t give the players a chance to gel together, something that may have hampered the club in recent months.
In all honesty though, even on paper the squad does look like one of the weakest in the division, and it’s starting to tell. A threadbare attack has been hugely depleted in the last few days with top scorer John Parkin moving to Cardiff. Where any goals will come from is now a huge question to be answered. Young Adam Barton has been a glimpse of hope for the future in midfield, but the rest look average in comparison to other teams. At the back there hasn’t been a consistent centre-back pairing to call upon, and the full backs have varied all season long, without keeping too many clean sheets.
Was this all down to Darren Ferguson? Well that’s simply not the case, but when things are as bad as this, something has to give. The club needs a lift, from the fans through to the players who are clearly low on confidence. The new man has a huge job on his hands to salvage the season, and it may already be time to start planning for the new season at a lower level. Today’s defeat to relegation rivals Crystal Palace hasn’t helped matters either.
There have been many names linked with the post, and rumours are that applications have now been closed. Former Hull boss Phil Brown has been heavily linked after sightings at the ground, but PNE could face competition from Lancashire neighbours Burnley. He is a man who transformed an average Championship club into Premiership survivors before, so has a promising track record.
Paul Jewell is a man who’s seen and done it before at this level, and an experienced pair of hands could well be the smart way to go. Recently departed from Blackburn Sam Allardyce may be too far out of PNE’s league, especially with relegation a distinct possibility. However, the club may choose to stick with caretaker boss David Unsworth. The local lad is inexperienced but revered at his hometown club, and well liked by the players.
Whoever takes charge will be in for a real struggle, but if Preston can get this appointment right, then the shoots of recovery may well start to grow at Deepdale, where they are desperately needed.
Image credit to Ieguan001
What do you think? Who should be the new man to take charge at Deepdale? Where do PNE need to improve? Let us know in the comments below