Cup game is tonic for PNE

Preston boss Simon Grayson wants the FA Cup draw with Arsenal to be a springboard for a return to winning ways in the Championship.
Preston North End manager Simon GraysonPreston North End manager Simon Grayson
Preston North End manager Simon Grayson

he Lilywhites have six league games before facing the Gunners on January 7, starting with Blackburn’s visit to Deepdale today (5.30pm).

Grayson does not want the cup to act as a distraction, rather it being a motivation for his players to perform well over the next three weeks so that they face Arsenal with some form behind them.

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“When we got drawn against Manchester United a couple of years ago, I’m not saying our league form was stuttering but we were only doing okay,” said Grayson.

“We went on a decent run from then on and the cup gave us a real boost.

“There is an edge for the players now, they know that if they are in the team they have to produce performances both to get points and to stay in to face Arsenal.

“It is a great FA Cup game for us, we’ll be coming up against some world-class players, a club with a manager who has been around the Premier League for 20 years.

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“We’ve got matches in the league before then and we’ll turn our full attention on it after playing Burton on January 2.”

The Arsenal game will be a real money-spinner for North End, timely with it coming early in the transfer window.

They will get £144,000 from the game being broadcast live on BT Sport, plus a 45 per cent share of ticket sales – a sell-out crowd is expected.

Were PNE to beat the Gunners, they would win £67,500 prize money.

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With additional advertising revenue, there will be a tidy sum made.

For the Preston squad, their attention is on the derby with Blackburn, a game which starts a busy week.

They go to Nottingham Forest on Wednesday night and then face Bristol City a week today.

Casting his eye over Rovers’ fortunes this season, Grayson said: “When you look at the start they made, it was disappointing.

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“They have only had one defeat in their last five and to go to Newcastle and win 1-0 there was a huge surprise.

“We know their strengths and weaknesses, while the main thing is we play our own game and not the occasion.

“Blackburn have some very good players, Conway, Feeney, Marshall and Evans have impressed.

“When you go through any squad in the Championship, all of them have good players.

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“That is why it is such a competitive league and an exciting one to be involved in.

“It is also one of the toughest divisions to get out of.”

Today’s attendance will be given a boost by North End’s ticket offer for the Arsenal game.

Supporters buying a match ticket for the Rovers clash will be given a level of priority when sales start for the cup.

Business was reportedly brisk after the announcement of that offer.