Craig salmon's pressview

I Imagine the Preston North End fan who texted in to a local radio station on Saturday tea-time a couple of weeks ago was drinking out of a glass which was half empty.

By The Newsroom
Saturday, 20th February 2016, 9:30 am
Preston North End's Alan Browne scores the winning goal against Huddersfield
Preston North End's Alan Browne scores the winning goal against Huddersfield

Having witnessed Preston secure a welcome, if admittedly fortuitous late victory over Huddersfield at Deepdale, there was no hiding the pessimism in his message.

It read...“Good three points for Preston, but the club needs to get rid of manager Simon Grayson if we are to have any chance of the play-offs”...or something to that effect.

The radio presenter had to gulp in a large breath of exasperated air as he digested the text message which he had just read out over the airwaves.

I think he and along with many other sane footballing observers, like myself, must have been shaking their heads in disbelief at the contents of the message.

I am pretty sure that the vast majority of North End fans do not share this one supporter’s feelings. Indeed, it was only last week that I was contacted by a Preston fan, who informed me that he, along with others, were hoping to organise a special ‘Simon Grayson Day’ to recognise ‘all that he has done for the club’ in the three years and two days he has been in charge at Deepdale.

Just by the sheer nature of the job of being a football manager, Grayson will probably have a number of detractors in the stands.

There will always be criticism – and praise – aimed in the direction of a manager by fans, who are naturally ecstatic when their team wins, but morbidly depressed when their team loses.

However, there was no pleasing this one PNE supporter, who felt Grayson still deserved the sack despite his team collecting three valuable points.

I would argue that North End, by and large, have had the perfect season up to now since returning to the Championship after four long years away in League One.

Okay, there have been one or two worrying spells in the bottom three, but over the winter the team has really got to grips with the new level they have found themselves in.

Considering the size of the clubs – and budgets – they have found themselves up against, Grayson and his men can be rightly pleased with what they have been able to accomplish so far.

Barring a catastrophy over the final few months of the seasons, you would think North End’s current 16-point lead over the bottom three means they will go to on to secure their Championship status for another season at least.

I am guessing this is what consolidation looks like to North End owner Trevor Hemmings, who stated that was his and the club’s primary aim in the immediate aftermath of the Wembley play-off final victory over Swindon Town last May. A top half finish you would think is well within the squad’s capability, but what about a late charge for the play-offs?

At this week’s press conference at Preston’s Springfields Training Ground, I asked Grayson whether the next 15 games represent something of a ‘free-hit’ for his players.

Free from the worries of a relegation scrap and without the expectation of promotion which many clubs in this division face, maybe the players could enter into the final third of the season with a certain element of freedom.

Grayson and the players remain guarded about any play-off talk, but I am sure there are one or two eyes on the top six in the Deepdale dressing room.

If they were to secure a play-off spot this season, it would represent a remarkable achievement – and would certainly provide the perfect riposte to the text-messaging supporter!