Preston North End have now been without a manager for over three weeks and the picture in terms of who could be the next boss does not look too much clearer.
Five Candidates for the Job of Preston North End Manager
No Surefire Manager Linked to the Preston North End Job
The bookies’ odds have fluctuated, various reports have linked all kinds of people to the role and PNE advisor Peter Ridsdale has remained tight-lipped about any potential appointment. Upon the initial sacking of Alex Neil, it does look like Frankie McAvoy will hold the reigns until the end of the current campaign – but after that, nobody really knows yet.
There’s often a clear candidate for the role, someone who without questionable doubt, looks likely to land the job. But with North End, it certainly seems like they’re putting it completely off until the end of the campaign.
Although we’re no clearer on a definite ‘who’ we can certainly take a look at the current five most likely men to be approached about the role from North End and see their previous records, how they would fit the role and so on.
One name linked to the job most recently is Uwe Rosler. The current Fortuna Dusseldorf manager’s name has emerged in recent weeks as a candidate for the job but the man himself has claimed he is only thinking of his current side at the moment according to LancsLive.
Preston North End Want Head Coach and Not a Manager
Rosler would certainly fit the role in terms of his situation: he has worked as a head coach before, which is the way that PNE are heading. Upon sacking Neil they claimed their next boss would have the working title of ‘head coach’, signalling a foray down a different path.
In addition, Rosler’s contract in Germany expires at the end of the current campaign. Dusseldorf are sixth in the Bundesliga 2 and he could very well leave the club if he doesn’t land promotion for the club.
Finally, add in the fact that North End have had a previous interest in Rosler, with the manager linked when previous boss Simon Grayson left his role at Deepdale and that’s three extremely valid reasons as to why he could be the one for the job. PNE have made it clear they will wait until the end of the campaign and that could be down to his expiring contract.
Good Record With Malmo
He doesn’t have a bad record by any means, taking Malmo to their first-ever back-to-back Europa League knockout stages and dragging them up the league before taking over at Dusseldorf. He also has done good work in England previously, taking Fleetwood Town to their highest ever points total and taking them into the playoffs – as he did with Wigan Athletic in the Championship too. He also had a hand in trying to get Brentford promotion to the second tier and, after he left the club, much of his team did secure that storied promotion.
He’s known for a decent, attacking and pressing style of football and it would be warmly welcomed at Deepdale, with many believing the football has gone stale at North End.
There are some who would question his appointment – he had a brief disappointing spell at Leeds United and there are some who generally question his ability as a manager – but he has tended to average over 1.5 points per match as a manager and has proven he can be successful in both England and the football world in general.
This one would certainly mean a lot to many a North End fan. If Gareth Ainsworth was to return to Preston North End as a manager, there would certainly be a certain romanticism to it. Ainsworth was a hero at the club as a player and it would be fitting for him to come back and do the same as a manager too.
The work he has also done at Wycombe has been nothing short of miraculous. On such a modest budget, many expected the side to be battling against League One relegation. Instead, he got them promoted into the Championship. Yes, they’re bottom of the second tier table at the moment, but they have one of the lowest budgets in the league and have still performed admirably (and aren’t mathematically out for the count yet).
The man himself claimed he was ‘flattered’ to be linked with the role and clearly still has deep feelings for the side from his playing days there.
Direct Football as Manager – Would Preston North End Want That?
In terms of fit, he hasn’t really been viewed as a head coach in his career and his style of play has often had many fans eye-rolling. Ainsworth likes to play more direct football and although perhaps not easy to watch at times, it has also certainly got the job done on numerous occasions. In this instance, it would be a case of ‘do you want to win in whatever way you can or lose beautifully?’
If he landed the role, there would be many enamoured with his appointment – but there would likely be some not too happy with what could be seen as a ‘risky’ appointment.
It would be unfair not to include McAvoy on this list. The current interim Preston boss has been told that, based on his showings in the remaining eight games of the season, he could be considered for the role on a full-time basis. So far, relatively okay for the former number two.
In his first game, they stole a point against league leaders Norwich City. In his second, they outplayed Swansea City and wrapped up three points against a side battling for a playoff spot. It’s the club’s latest games that have thrown a whole load of question marks over his capabilities, as they were hammered 5-0 by Brentford.
It is perhaps unfair to judge McAvoy on one game alone, especially considering he has managed four points out of a possible nine against sides North End might have expected not to get any from.
He’s switched up the club’s tactics too, moving to a two-man strikeforce rather than a lone forward. He’s also attempted to incorporate a more swashbuckling style of play, not afraid to go on the attack and for the win even when losing games.
Never Been a First-Team Manager Prior to Preston North End
It paid off against Swansea. It didn’t against Brentford. He’s also never held a proper managerial role.
He’s been an assistant throughout his career and this represents his first venture into actual management. Therefore, he presents a bit of an unknown quantity – with only these first three games to judge him off so far, could he be a successor were the good results merely part of a honeymoon period?
Grant McCann fits the bill, but he represents another mixed bag in terms of the North End job and potential fan reaction. Although he has publicly rubbished the links to the PNE job, he remains a potential contender. He’s worked as a head coach and represents a young manager who has had some level of success so far – but also some failure.
Took Doncaster to the Play-Offs
Starting out at Peterborough United, he lasted over 100 games before he was handed the sack. He then took over at Doncaster Rovers, where he had them competing in the League One play-offs. Although they lost in the semis, they were only sent out on penalties and he had a lot more success here than in his Peterborough stint.
McCann currently finds himself at Hull City, where fans are still unsure of the manager despite his success in the third tier. Yes, he has had a lot of success this campaign and is likely to drag them straight back up to the Championship but he is also the man who led them down in the first place. Does that reek of a manager who can be a success in League One but not in the higher tiers? If it does, then would appointing him as Preston manager be a mistake?
The final name on this list is another familiar with Deepdale, having played over 100 times for them before becoming a manager.
Michael Appleton could, like Gareth Ainsworth, be set for a romantic PNE reunion as a boss. He’s impressed as a boss so far, winning many plaudits in his current role at Lincoln City and although he could be costly, it would be a price seemingly worth paying.
Lincoln Battling for Promotion
It would make sense too. The need to wait until the end of the season to make an appointment could tie into the idea that Appleton would likely want to remain with his current side if he led them to League One promotion. If he didn’t manage it, he could jump at the chance to make the leap up to the Championship with his former club.
His style of football has also caught the eye, something that will please PNE fans if he took over, and he has had relative success in most of his stints so far.
It could be the best appointment – but only if North End stump up the cash and Lincoln let him leave the club.