A work in progress

Stuart Beavon: The striker was the only player PNE paid a fee for during the summer

Stuart Beavon: The striker was the only player PNE paid a fee for during the summer

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Graham Westley will blow out the candle on his first anniversary cake when Preston host Walsall this weekend.

Sunday’s game against the Saddlers marks 12 months in the PNE hotseat for Westley, his year in charge at Deepdale eventful to say the least.

It was late on January 13, 2012, that he signed on the dotted line to become North End’s fourth manager in a little over five years.

And he has bucked the recent trend by staying in the post for a year, something which Phil Brown and Darren Ferguson before him did not manage to achieve.

Results have not been great to date, North End’s current 15th position in League One matching last season’s finish.

Westley is confident he will bring about an improvement given some patience, his aim ultimately to return the club to the Championship.

In the shorter-term, he has got his sights on tomorrow night’s Johnstone’s Paint Trophy area semi-final against Coventry.

Speaking recently as the first-year landmark loomed on the horizon, Westley admitted his time in charge had seen ups and downs.

The PNE boss said: “I suppose you can break it down into two phases.

“It was a horrible first three or four months, knowing the player group wasn’t behind the agenda I had clearly come in with.

“Working against a group of players isn’t easy.

“You have to be strong minded and be a strong character to get through something like that.

“I knew what I was doing, I understood I would have to tough it out.

“If you keep your mind on the big picture you can cope with it.

“I knew that was an essential phase if we were going to make any progress as a club in the long term.

“The second phase started in the summer when we were busy looking at the market and trying to bring in players within affordable means.

“Of all the players who came in, all but one (Stuart Beavon) were on free transfers.

“That was a really busy time, finding players who were available and of sufficient quality.

“Bringing them all together has been fun, they are good lads to work with and they’ve been learning a lot.

“We have had our moments when we haven’t been blessed with the best fortune.

“The big injuries we have taken have been more than I have experienced previously.

“I’ve never had so many big injuries in such a short period of time.

“We are going forward but when you’re doing that, you sometimes hit stumbling blocks - that’s inevitable.

“That doesn’t worry me as it worries others.

“Everyone else wants you to go in a straight line, just winning every week.

“It doesn’t happen like that – anyone who has built a team in football will know there are ups and downs.

“Every step of the way I’ve done what I have for a reason.

“From my point of view, I don’t regret anything.

“I wouldn’t have the learning on board if I hadn’t done what I did.

“I always trust myself to do the right things for the situation, using my ability, experience and knowledge.

“It’s my ambition to go forward as fast as I can with the club.

“I could have got better short-term results doing things different when I first took over, but that wouldn’t have been of long-term benefit.

“For me, it is all about making sure I get Preston into the Championship as soon as possible.

“I want to clear the obstacles to progress, create a new culture and winning ethos, help the club move forward.”

The playing staff has changed dramatically during Westley’s tenure.

Only Thorsten Stuckmann and Bailey Wright remain from the first-team squad he inherited.

He has made 33 signings, either permanently or on loan, with teenage winger Will Hayhurst added to the senior ranks after coming through the youth ranks.

A similar number have left in that time in what has been very much a case of revolution rather than evolution.

Westley does not regret leaving Stevenage for PNE, even though Boro went on to reach the League One play-offs last May and are currently seven places better off in the table.

“Preston North End has got an unbelievable history and a fantastic stadium which is destined for a much higher level,” said the 44-year-old.

“The club has been on the verge of the Premier League and has shown the potential it has got.

“I saw it as a fabulous opportunity to be part of a club which has a supporter base with passion beyond belief and a brilliant stadium.

“This is a club with bigger resources and ability to create an infrastructure.

“I love the fact the people up here tell you exactly how it is, which is my cup of 

“It’s honesty that I prefer rather than being told I’ve been unlucky after a