PNE opponents Orient are a unknown quantity

Nathan Clarke
Nathan Clarke
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Preston North End manager Simon Grayson will have a new hand to shake in the Leyton Orient dugout before kick-off at Brisbane Road.

Former Italy international and one-time Queens Park Rangers defender Mauro Milanese was appointed as the O’s manager on Sunday.

He has been at Brisbane Road since August in the role of sporting director, Orient owner Francesco Becchetti bringing him to East London after buying the club from Barry Hearn.

Milanese’s appointment in the aftermath of the weekend’s 3-0 defeat at Port Vale was a surprise in the fact Kevin Nugent had been given the post of interim manager until the end of the season.

Nugent had stepped up to do that job after the exit of Russell Slade to Cardiff City.

He has now reverted to a coaching role under Milanese who can list Inter Milan, Napoli and Parma among the clubs he played for.

Grayson said: “A few weeks ago Kevin Nugent was offered the job but now the sporting director has taken over.

“It will be hard for us to try and work out what they will do in terms of does Mauro change his personnel, does he change his system?

“I suppose the advantage which he has is that he is not someone coming into an unfamiliar club. Mauro has been there on the staff for a number of weeks now.

“While he might not have been out there coaching, he will have been watching games and maybe helping with recruitment.

“I’m sure he will be aware of the players at his disposal and what they are capable of doing.”

Orient have struggled for form this season in the wake of May’s play-off final defeat at Wembley to Rotherham.

They have won three league games and are 18th in the table.

Such form causes Grayson to raise his eyebrows.

The Preston boss said: “It is a surprise when you look at their squad.

“It is probably slightly stronger than it has been over the last few years.

“They have brought people in like Darius Henderson, Jobi McAnuff and Shane Lowry, all good experienced Championship players.

“Russell Slade has left and they appointed the new manager over the weekend.

“We will go there in good spirits but we know that on their day, Orient can be a handful for anybody.”

Top scorer Henderson, who joined in the summer from Nottingham Forest, is sidelined for North End’s visit having been red carded at Vale on Saturday.

Providing PNE skipper Tom Clarke recovers from the virus which has kept him out of the last two matches, he will be in opposition to his older brother Nathan.

And if Clarke plays and gets the armband back from Joe Garner, the siblings will be shaking hands in the centre circle – Nathan is the O’s captain.

Prior to the weekend loss to Vale, Orient were unbeaten in four games.