Adam Lord’s PNE Press View: Making a noise in more ways than one

North End fans out in numbers at Brentford last Saturday
North End fans out in numbers at Brentford last Saturday
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There is no greater sight when on the road with North End than looking left or right from our press box position and seeing a packed-out away end.

It is becoming a signature of the club and certainly something all involved should be proud of.

I’ve lost count of the number of times this season that post-match discussion in the press room has deviated from quizzical looks about a comment from a manager to a reporter who covers the home club expressing surprise at how many fans PNE had brought with them on that particular day.

On our train journeys back from London away days I have a mixture of emotions, Saturday’s after the draw at Brentford being no different.

Sometimes it’s a tinge of jealously that being at work means joining in with a can or two, is out of the question and the laptop has to be opened again as we head from Euston to Preston.

Jokes aside, there is plenty of admiration from me for those who spend their hard-earned cash covering the miles that go along with trying to help an aspirational Championship club reach the promised land.

Unlike the usual incumbent of this column, I didn’t have a youth that involved being a dedicated follower of any particular club so it is something that is a little alien to me.

I am now just fortunate that my career has taken me to a point where I can piggy-back along to a degree, certainly one of the perks of the job.

This Saturday at Deepdale the roles will be reversed with Premier League-bound Wolves filling out the Bill Shankly Kop having sold out their 5,600 allocation.

It’s no surprise fans will travel from Molineux in numbers given their position sitting pretty 12 points clear at the top of the Championship with a third of the season to go.

It will add to what should be a cracking atmosphere at Deepdale as PNE test 
themselves against the very best that the second tier has to offer.

Noise shouldn’t be an issue for either set of supporters but strength in numbers would certainly help when it comes to matching the singing that will be coming from the away end.

Whether Saturday’s attendance tops the season-high 18,267 for the opening-day win over Sheffield Wednesday in Alex Neil’s first game in charge will depend entirely on whether more ‘casuals’ are tempted through the gates.

To be frank, if the people of Preston aren’t going to back their football club at this point, then perhaps it is only Premier League football that will take Deepdale to somewhere near capacity on a regular basis.

Neil’s men aren’t just looking to upset the apple cart when it comes to putting a slight halt in Wolves’ charge towards the top flight though, they very much have their own ambitions to consider on Saturday.

Ahead of this weekend PNE are three points shy of the top six with 15 games to play and are very much in the mix to be in the promotion shake-up come the end of the season.

Having spoken to Tommy Spurr and Tom Barkhuizen, amongst others, in the run-up to the game then this is a game where the Lilywhites are looking to be on the front foot where others may work out how to contain the visitors’ multi-million pound talents.

Having started covering the club for what turned out to be Simon Grayson’s final year in charge and then seeing how things have changed since Neil took over in July, a shift in mentality has been the major change since the Scot arrived.

There is a real edge to this young and emerging side, with Jordan Hugill’s move to West Ham on deadline day an indication of where these players could be heading.

The plan from on high and in the changing room is that now it is done as a unit.

Brentford didn’t like the ‘up and at ’em’ approach from North End at Griffin Park last time out but the way they got stuck in and the way any grumbles were dismissed post-match sums up the bullishness that has been instilled in this PNE side by their manager.

That is no disrespect whatsoever to Grayson, whose task was an entirely different one to Neil who has been challenged with taking the club to another level altogether.

It looks as though the former Preston boss has been brought in to do the same at Bradford City as he did with PNE, having been handed the managerial reins at Valley Parade this week.

Grayson inherits a Bantams side currently sixth in League One and occupying the final play-off place.

Having four promotions from the third tier on his CV, few would bet against him making it five at a club that has plenty of potential.

Chris Coleman’s struggles at Sunderland show just what a difficult task Grayson had when he ended his more than four-year stint at Deepdale to move to the Stadium of Light and having also been under consideration for Barnsley and linked with a return to Leeds, he will now look to rebuild.

To most observers, it looks like an excellent fit for both club and manager.