Have Preston North End become a yardstick in the Championship, a tipping point even?
Simon Grayson’s men seem to have become the division’s version of the Grim Reaper.
Of the 13 managers who have left their post in English football’s second tier this season, five have gone inside a week of facing PNE.
I jokingly wrote this week that playing North End can seriously damage a manager’s employment.
Coincidence is the major player, of course, in this sequence but it is quite some statistic all the same.
Guy Luzon, Steve Cotterill, Paul Clement, Dougie Freedman and Neil Lennon were all picking up their P45 and pay-off soon after their teams had played Preston.
In the cases of Cotterill and Lennon, they did not get another game in charge of Bristol City and Bolton respectively, following 2-1 defeats.
Luzon, Clement and Freedman were in the dugout for one more game after facing PNE before the axe fell.
A combination of factors conspired against the quintet of bosses who have gone.
Clement didn’t play ‘the Derby way’ according to his paymasters, while Lennon was always going to be on rocky ground the moment Bolton’s takeover was complete.
Freedman can at least argue that his Nottingham Forest side beat North End in his penultimate game at the helm.
As for Luzon and Cotterill, Charlton and Bristol City had simply lost too many games with them at the rudder.
Cotterill could point to some puzzling recruitment efforts by his club too.
Surely none of these five clubs swung the axe as a direct consequence of results against North End?
Losing to a side which has admittedly over-achieved but has also been upwardly mobile since the middle of October, is far from a disgrace.
Perhaps a newly-promoted side sitting in upper mid-table, doing so without having spent a fortune, has opened a few eyes? If Preston are up there, why aren’t we?
On a similar theme, I did see North End’s name used this week in a manner once reserved for Grimsby and Hartlepool.
You know the one: ‘If such and such don’t watch it, they will be having to get used to trips to Grimsby on a wet Tuesday night next season’.
A broadsheet newspaper was analysing Rafa Benitez’s appointment at Newcastle and weighing-up whether or not the Spaniard could keep them in the Premier League.
The doomsday scenario for Benitez, according to the writer, were ‘trips to Preston and Rotherham’ next season.
If that happens, we must remember to roll out the red carpet and doff our caps to such illustrious visitors – unless of course, North End pass them going the other way!
I write that slightly tongue in cheek, although with nine games left, the play-offs remain in view.
They are a long shot and four clubs above PNE are better placed at the moment to claim sixth spot.
However, sides have come from further back to reach the end-of-season lottery, so why not dare to dream for a little while longer?
Last Saturday’s victory at Bolton kept North End in touch with the top six.
A fine afternoon was had by all of the 4,432 travelling fans, bowler hats perched on heads in honour of Gentry Day.
Both goals being scored in front of the away end made for the perfect day.
But why the need for the smoke bomb after Jordan Hugill had netted the equaliser?
I have read the debate on smoke bombs on other media platforms and understand that there are differing views.
Some fans, and I’m not just talking about Preston here, fall into the ‘no pyro, no party’ brigade and want to turn every game in Guy Fawkes night.
Others, the majority I might argue, wonder why anyone would risk facing a stadium ban and a criminal record for the sake of 30 seconds of coloured, smelly smoke?
Today, a week on from Gentry Day, an occasion where fans and players no longer with us are remembered with fondness, we turn our thoughts to Alan Spavin who passed away in the United States at the age of 74.
‘Spav’ played 486 games in the Preston shirt, the last few in a second spell at Deepdale in the late 1970s after he had returned from playing in America.
As a youngster, I just about remember Spavin’s return and if my memory serves me right, he played in a few reserve games in the Central League too. The minute’s applause which will ring round Deepdale, is richly deserved.