Getting Joe Garner to think like Tom Clarke or asking Paul Huntington to put himself in the shoes of Kevin Davies might not seem the conventional way to coach.
As strikers, Garner and Davies’ role in the Preston team is primarily to score goals, while Clarke and Huntington’s main duty is to ensure the ball stays out of the net.
However, North End first-team coach John Dreyer likes his charges to empathise with the players they directly come up against on the pitch.
The 51-year-old – who featured in the top flight of English football for Oxford United, Luton Town and tomorrow’s opponents Bradford City during a 19-year playing career – works with the players on a daily basis on the training ground. Alongside boss Simon Grayson and assistant Glynn Snodin, it is ‘Tumble’ Dreyer’s job to improve the players both individually and as a collective unit.
Although he must follow the lead of the manager, the PNE coach has scope to put a few of his own ideas across and one of the things he likes to do is encourage a wide range of thinking among the squad.
“I was mainly a defender and the thing I learned from my experience as a player – coming up against some of the best forwards – is I tried to get to know what the striker I was up against was going to do on the pitch,” Dreyer said.
“So as a coach now, I try to help the players improve and develop by making them think about what the other man is going to do.
“You have to think like a centre-forward if you are a defender and vice versa.
“As a player, you always have to have an appreciation of all the different positions on the pitch and it helps you to keep a step ahead.
“But my role as first-team coach is to adhere to what the manager wants.
“We have one voice and that is the manager’s.
“My role can be a number of things but primarily it’s about following the manager’s lead.
“I was a defender but it’s doesn’t mean I just work with the defenders.
“One day I might be doing a bit of work with the defenders, and then the next I might be doing something with the forwards.”
While a manager sometimes has to stand back and put some distance between himself and the squad, Dreyer admits he enjoys getting close to the players.
He said: “I wouldn’t say being a confidante to the players is part of my remit.
“But it’s something I will do because that’s the type of person that I am.
“I think probably one of the hardest things about being part of the management team is looking after the players who aren’t playing.
“We realise that it’s a squad game and the players who might not be playing at this moment in time are still very important to us.
“At any given time, those players could be back in the team, playing and be important members of the team.
“So we have to make sure that everybody is not only fit but fully focused and motivated so that they are ready to play. I think that’s an important part of the job.”
After a run of seven successive league victories, North End lost their last two games in League One and Dreyer has spent the last few days boosting morale and confidence among the squad ahead of Bradford’s visit to Deepdale.
“Another thing I also enjoy doing is trying to make a difference,” he said.
“We have lost our last couple of league games and it’s all about getting things back on a winning front.”
Dreyer spent nearly four years at Valley Parade and made 93 appearance for the club before leaving in 2000.
“I absolutely loved my time at Bradford – just loved the place,” Dreyer said. “I fell in love with the area and the people.”