Coach Steve Thompson says that relaxed atmosphere was key to Preston North End’s survival

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A relaxed atmosphere and players stepping up to the plate was the recipe for success for PNE as they finished the 2020/21 season strongly, according to first-team coach Steve Thompson.

He was a big help to interim head coach Frankie McAvoy as the Scot oversaw the final eight games of the campaign following Alex Neil’s sacking.

Alongside Thompson was then first-team player Paul Gallagher and goalkeeper coach Mike Pollitt.

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Gallagher has since hung up his boots, taking up the coaching role full time, and McAvoy has been given the role of head coach permanently.

Steve Thompson (left) with Frankie McAvoySteve Thompson (left) with Frankie McAvoy
Steve Thompson (left) with Frankie McAvoy

The new coaching team took 17 points from a possible 24 as they guided PNE safely into mid-table.

“We looked and we were first or second in the form league – it’s a funny one, the Championship,” Thompson told the Lancashire Post.

“You look at some of the results and you just don’t see them coming.

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“We changed our shape, the lads who were out of the team thought they had a chance again as the manager had left, and the ones that were in the team had to step up.

“The results weren’t the best at the time. It wasn’t through a lack of hard work, it was just those circumstances and fine margins in games.

“We said it in meetings, the squad have been absolutely fantastic. They’ve all galvanised each other.

“Myself, Frankie, Paul and Mike have made it a relaxed atmosphere to try and get a smile on their faces to get the results to the end of the season and it has worked.”

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North End looked like they were sliding towards the relegation zone as the change of management was made. Thompson admits it was disappointing, having worked under Alex Neil since his appointment in 2017.

The 56-year-old knows that it is the nature of the beast in professional football and believes the squad is ready to go again after their break.

He said: “It was a disappointment seeing Alex go, there were some fine margins with results and things like that.

“Me, Frankie McAvoy, Paul Gallagher and Mike Pollitt have taken the helm ending the season and the results have been great. If someone had said we’d have picked up the points we did to end the season we’d have snapped your hand off.

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“It was great that we were able to secure Championship status for Preston North End but there was that disappointment with Alex leaving.

“I’m sure everyone will understand that that’s football and we are ready to go again.

“Hopefully everyone can recharge their batteries and look forward to the new season.”