Grayson had Euro adventure at Villa

Simon Grayson

Simon Grayson

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Preston’s clash with Aston Villa will see Simon Grayson looking to get one over on a club he wore the shirt of for two seasons.

The Lilywhites boss has fond memories of his spell as a Villa player between 1997 and 1999.

At the time, the Midlands club were challenging at the top of the Premier League and playing in Europe.

In his second season , Villa reached the last eight of the UEFA Cup, beating Bordeux, Athletic Bilbao and Steaua Bucharest.

In the quarter-finals, they lost on away goals to Atletico Madrid.

Grayson joined them in June 1997 from Leicester City for £1.3m.

He made 67 appearances for Villa, scoring twice, before moving on to Blackburn in July 1999.

Said Grayson: “I enjoyed myself at Aston Villa, I had a great couple of years there.

“We reached the quarter-finals of the UEFA Cup one season and were top of the Premier League for a long time.

“Aston Villa is a massive club, a fantastic club to play for and be involved with.

“I have had a few clubs as a player and manager though, and it is what you do at your present club that matters.

“The aim for Saturday is for Preston to try and get three points.”

Grayson played as a right-back and in midfield during his time with Villa.

He said: “Brian Little was the manager who signed me and then John Gregory took over after a while.

“It was a really good spell, very enjoyable.

“ I signed around the same time as Stan Collymore, Mark Bosnich, Dwight Yorke, Ugo Ehiogu and Mark Draper – we had a good team.

“We had a good European run at one stage and it was great to be involved in everything that goes with these big clubs – the supporters and fan base.

“Aston Villa are now a Championship club and fighting for the right to get three points like everyone else in this league.”

In the summer, Grayson was linked for a time with the Villa manager’s job.

It was more speculation rather than anything solid, but the 46-year-old seemed flattered all the same.

Said Grayson: “Everyone gets linked with certain jobs.

“I said at the time it was testament to how well the players had done that they were getting linked with moves away and I was linked with that job.

“It is all part and parcel of football, the mad world of a football manager.”

Although this weekend’s clash will be the 111th game between Preston and Villa, it is a quite a while since they last met.

Their last clash was in the League Cup in December 2002 when Craig Brown was manager, Villa winning 5-0.

But in terms of the league, this is the first time their paths have crossed since the 1973/74 season.

On the opening day of that campaign, North End lost 2-0 at Villa Park – the sides in the old Second Division then.

In the return fixture at Deepdale four months later, the game finished goalless.

PNEs last victory against Villa came in January 1969 at Deepdale.

Defender Jim McNab got the game’s only goal in front of a crowd of 15,252.

They did the double over Villa that campaign, having won 1-0 at Villa Park with a goal from Ken Knighton.

Preston and Villa were two founder members of the Football League.

Their first meeting came in January 1888, North End winning 3-1 in the FA Cup.

In the Football League’s first season, Preston beat Villa away 2-0 and drew 0-0 at home.

Villa finished runners-up to the PNE Invincibles, 11 points behind.