When I arrived at Colchester last Saturday, a loyal PNE fan told me that he had passed the Westley Crematorium on the way to the ground!
He normally wished me good luck!
I got his message. Despite my best efforts, his prediction was correct.
Maybe the moral of the story is that you should never take a job on Friday the 13th and never meet the chairman at Waterloo Station on Wednesday the 13th!
My tenure at Preston lasted just 13 months from January 2012 until February 2013. As I write this column on Valentine’s Day, I do so with a true sense of pain at an unfinished job.
I am 100% sure that I would have successfully finished building on the demolition work and foundations that I had completed, but unfortunately, as it was put to me, ‘Mr Hemmings lost patience’.
To be fair, with the mood of the fans being what it was, it did need a strong faith in me to back me. I completely understand that. Regrettably for me, much as I asked for better players and more time, that faith wasn’t there.
Barry Fry told me it would take a good manager two or three years to turn Preston around and he was probably right. I did a lot in 13 months and there were mistakes in amongst my work. For sure.
It is my view that if you do enough good work you can afford to get a few things wrong and you will always get some stuff wrong if you do enough work.
I am gutted that I won’t be able to prove myself to the PNE faithful now, which I know I would have done and which I was totally committed to doing.
I took some flak, but I did my utmost to stay focused, trusting that people would soon be with me when the team started winning consistently.
So there it is. My PNE Chapter is closed.
I hope that the club finishes building upon the work that I have done and wins its way back into the Championship next season. My view is that it will.
I made some big changes in my time but I lost a few important battles behind the scenes during my 13 months.
I hoped that eventually, my beliefs would win through.
Given time to reflect, I am sure that the club will see that I was right to want the decisions that I wanted.
If those key changes are made and the right players are changed, then that promotion will definitely come next season. I want to thank Mr Hemmings and his family, Peter Ridsdale, the Board and the staff at PNE for the belief that was put in me and the support that was given to me.
I am privileged to have worked with some very decent people here at PNE. I want to thank the players for the effort that they gave.
And I want to thank every PNE fan for the passion and care that you give the club. You are a truly amazing group and, despite my tough ride, I greatly appreciate the support that you always gave the team.
I am sorry that I didn’t deliver better results. But I hope in time that people might see that I helped to turn the club round. I know from many emails that I have received that people do understand the picture that I have painted in this column.
Two moments that taught me so much about how deep the passion for football is in Preston:-
1:A lady stopped me for an autograph before a game and then told me that she would be ripping it up if we didn’t win!
2:A lady lambasted me for eating a jaffa cake before a game; ‘You have to understand…..it is orange……we do nothing orange’.
I didn’t do it again. I was learning PNE at a tough time but now it is over.
Good Luck PNE. Thank you all for everything. I can only wish I had done better, grow from the experience and look to bounce back strongly.
‘Building a squad on a budget’ - read the second part of Graham Westley’s final column only in tomorrow’s LEP