Dave Seddon's PNE Press View
I won't be alone in the world of local journalism when I admit to the fact that I was absent from the unveiling of Simon Grayson as Preston boss more than four years ago.
The unwritten rule in football seems to be for clubs to name managers when the local hack is on holiday – that was the case when Grayson held a PNE scarf above his head at Deepdale in February 2013.
I caught up with Grayson for the first time a few days later, his opening words as he shook my hand being, ‘Nice of you to finally join us’.
Over the next four years and four months, I spent a lot of time in Grayson’s company at pre-match and post-match press conferences.
Easy to get on with, you could share a laugh and a joke, while he was quick to steer the conversation in the direction of Yorkshire Cricket Club – he did have that cross to bear.
Supported well by those above him, Grayson steered the Lilywhites on an upward trajectory.
The initial job was to make sure they weren’t dragged into a relegation scrap – North End sat 17th in League One when he came through the door.
Grayson did that quickly, safety was achieved with room to spare and without adding to the squad.
The following season he took PNE to the play-off semi-finals, beaten over two legs by Rotherham.
Then 12 months later, there was Wembley glory in the play-off final, North End booking their return to the Championship.
If you were pick out one of the flaws in Grayson’s time at PNE, it was the finishes to seasons.
Being picky, they should have gone up automatically in 2015, although nothing will dent my memories and those of thousands of others, at Wembley. Looking back, I would not have had it any other way. Mind you the gut-wrenching feeling after Colchester was an awful one.
Every credit though, for the manner in which they bounced back to bury the play-off jinx in style.
In the Championship, PNE had successive 11th-place finishes – it should have been higher last term.
Grayson is the first PNE manager to leave Deepdale of his own accord since Billy Davies did 11 years ago.
The five managers who came after Davies were all sacked – Paul Simpson, Alan Irvine, Darren Ferguson, Phil Brown and Graham Westley.
Grayson bucked the trend and this has been the most stable of periods at North End for many years.
David Moyes was in post for a similar amount of time, just a couple of months less than Grayson.
Both managers have a promotion on their CV from their respective spells, an indication of what a touch of stability can bring.
The timing and perhaps the manner of Grayson’s exit, hasn’t sat comfortably.
Sunderland’s interest in him clearly goes back some weeks but it wasn’t the most straightforward of things.
Complicating it was the proposed German takeover at the Stadium of Light.
Had that gone ahead, a German manager would have been installed and Grayson would still be in post at Deepdale.
As it was, the Germans said ‘nein’ to buying the Black Cats and that was the signal for them to make their official move for Grayson.
For things to reach a head on Thursday morning, just an hour or so before the start of pre-season training, was frustrating, annoying and somewhat unsettling.
No doubt PNE expected a call from Sunderland at some stage but it all hinged on a takeover 130 miles away.
So who next for the North End manager’s office?
This was once a subject raised on an almost annual basis.
Grayson’s lengthy tenure, the longest of a Preston boss since the 1960s, means these are recent uncharted waters.
Those with North End connections have attracted plenty of talk and attention from supporters.
Moyes, Davies and Graham Alexander are three names to have been extensively discussed.
There is a nostalgic feel to Moyes in particular after what he achieved between 1998 and 2002.
Like the Grayson era, it was a careful build under Moyes with relegation first avoided and then a tilt at the play-offs.
That was followed by the Second Division title in 2000 and then the play-off final 12 months later.
Moyes, like Grayson, was attracted away, although to a higher division.
But is wanting a former football manager back akin to yearning for a ex-girlfriend from your younger days to waltz back on the scene?
Davies seems a no-go but appeals to some fans, one in particular having long voiced on Twitter a desire to have him back.
A return for Alexander is the choice of others, one of the most popular players to have worn the PNE shirt in recent years.
He had a caretaker stint in charge here at the end of 2011 and has gone on to have a career in management, firstly at Fleetwood and now with Scunthorpe.
Talking of Fleetwood, Uwe Rosler could well be in the frame.
Change is upon us and it is time to embrace it, for North End to appoint well from a position of strength and to push on.