Sean Gregan’s exclusive PNE column

The North End board had faith in Simon Grayson and that is now paying dividends

The North End board had faith in Simon Grayson and that is now paying dividends

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After having a break over the weekend, the next few weeks will be full on for Preston as they try to make the play-offs.

The squad will have had a couple of days to have some family time and switch off from football, then the really serious business starts.

North End have eight games to reduce the gap on the sides above and sneak into the top six.

They are the outsiders but with 24 points still to play for, there remains a chance. The good thing from where I’m looking is that no one is really looking at PNE as a serious contender.

That can work very much in your favour, allow you to go about your business and not have any pressure from the outside.

I’m sure there will be pressure from within, the players and staff challenging themselves.

As things stand, all the talk is on whether Fulham can sneak in there or will Sheffield Wednesday blow it and miss out.

Preston and Norwich have not rated much of a mention.

Your mind-set when it comes to the play-offs can be so different depending on the circumstances of how you got there.

At North End in 1999, it was disappointing to be in the play-offs because we had dropped into them having been in the top two.

Yet in 2001, we gave it a right go and reached the final with there being very little expectation on us.

For North End to be still in with a chance of the play-offs going into April, is a great achievement.

You don’t want your 
flip-flops on at this stage of the season, just seeing the games out in mid-table.

The start which they made to the season was 
horrendous, losing six of the opening eight games.

I’ve said it before, the board and owner deserve credit for not making a knee-jerk reaction and changing the manager like many clubs have done.

Such patience has been rewarded with a massive improvement – patience does has its virtues.

In Simon Grayson, they have a manager who gets the best out of his squad and who has overseen improvement every season.

Let us see what the next eight games produces.

It won’t be easy but hopefully they can keep the play-off push going right to the end.

On a wider football topic, I notice that three at the 
back is coming back into vogue.

England played it against Germany the other night and it is the system which Antonio Conte has used it at Chelsea for much of the campaign – so too Manchester United, Manchester City and Tottenham more recently.

A lot of teams played that way in the 1990s.

When I signed for PNE, Gary Peters often played a 3-5-2.

It wasn’t a problem for me because I had been playing that way at Darlington.

Systems tend to come and go and come back in favour.