Adam Lord's PNE Press View: The value of loyalty

Loyalty is dead in football, whether that be from players and managers chasing bigger moves or from clubs themselves desperate for success.

By The Newsroom
Saturday, 18th February 2017, 8:30 am
Updated Tuesday, 28th February 2017, 12:32 pm
Preston North End's Manager Simon Greyson applauds the travelling PNE Fans
 at the end of his first game in charge at Swindon in 2013
Preston North End's Manager Simon Greyson applauds the travelling PNE Fans at the end of his first game in charge at Swindon in 2013

That’s the commonly held view anyway.

It is therefore to the credit of both Simon Grayson and Preston North End that the Lilywhites manager reaches four years in charge at Deepdale today.

Compared to years gone by it’s not a massive number but having improved year-on-year, including that day at Wembley as PNE returned to the Championship, Grayson is now the 10th longest serving manager in English football.

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He has done a fine job, based on the simple premise of trying to progress every season.

Previously with Blackpool, Leeds and Huddersfield Grayson arrived at Deepdale on February 18, 2013 after Graham Westley had been given the boot.

He reached the League One play-offs in his first full season in charge, losing to Rotherham in the semi-finals, but got over the line 12 months later with the victory over Swindon at Wembley.

Battling the big boys of the Championship Grayson then oversaw an 11th-placed finish on PNE’s return to the second tier and is on course to go even better than that this year.

Given the spending power in the division reaching the top six would be a fine achievement, North End’s transfer record still the £1.5 million paid to Manchester United for the services of David Healy back in December 2000.

The North End boss has taken great pride in his ability to pick up emerging players or ones not wanted by other clubs and develop them.

Jordan Hugill and Callum Robinson are the two most recent examples of this with the pair, who are forming an increasingly promising strike partnership, having established themselves as top-end Championship players this season.

Grayson may not be splashing the clash but that doesn’t mean he’s not being backed from above, with admiring glances for both Hugill and Robinson during the January transfer window spurned.

That loyalty certainly works both ways.

It’s a concept I’m familiar with given that my previous parish was Morecambe.

Shrimps boss Jim Bentley is simply Mr Morecambe, a Wembley-winning captain turned manager at the Globe Arena.

In total, the former whole-hearted central defender has been part of the fabric of the club for nearly 15 years.

There have been tough times, an alarming slide during the second half of last season reaching a low with a 7-0 defeat at Cambridge.

But given the Shrimps’ standing as one of the smallest clubs in the Football League, the Shrimps currently 17th in League Two, there was never any question a man who cared so much was going to be shown the door.

Shouting the name of the club from the rooftops and wearing his heart on his sleeve, especially during the club’s current off-field troubles, to many Bentley is Morecambe Football Club.

Grayson hasn’t quite reached that kind of status at Deepdale but with more than 4,700 fans set to don masks in his honour today it is clear how his standing is growing all the time.

And as Wednesday’s pre-Wigan media briefing ended with a discussion about the plans for a new training ground currently on display at Deepdale it was clear to see that the Lilywhites boss has no intention of going anywhere.

My Morecambe connection means that the recent performances of Tom Barkhuizen have come as no surprise.

A few eyebrows were raised when North End looked to League Two for a signing but the winger has something that every defence hates, express pace.

A few press colleagues drew breath as Barkhuizen embarked on his first forays forward in a Lilywhites shirt, the former Globe Arena favourite having featured off the bench against all the Bs – Brighton, Brentford and Birmingham – thus far.

Competition is fierce in the attacking third for PNE as Grayson shapes a side that is increasingly easy on the eye.

While Aiden McGeady, Daryl Horgan and Callum Robinson are more known for trick, a twist or a turn to beat a man, Barkhuizen offers a far more direct option.

It is a quality that means he is especially devastating coming off the bench later in matches as defences tire and games are stretched.

He will get his chance from the start though and only then will PNE fans get a full picture of the latest in a long line of emerging and developing players to come to Deepdale to make their way.

A Blackpool lad through and through, Barkhuizen got lost in the madness of his hometown club before joining Morecambe in 2015.

His development was rapid as he proved that alongside his speed he also had an eye for goal.

Now with Grayson taking a chance on another rough diamond he looks set to kick on again with a second crack at the Championship.

How those at Bloomfield Road must rue the loss of one of their own.