Dave Seddon's Preston North End Press View: Progress and unity during Ryan Lowe's first three months at Deepdale

Ryan Lowe is three months into the Preston North End manager’s job and has already woven himself into the fabric of the club.

By Dave Seddon
Friday, 11th March 2022, 4:45 pm

The Lilywhites have played 16 games under the Liverpudlian, won six of them, drawn seven and lost three – one of those after extra-time in the FA Cup to Saturday’s opponents Cardiff City.

Twenty five points is a decent return for a side who were 19th when Lowe took over, a side which had been annoyingly inconsistent rather than particularly poor beforehand.

In three months Lowe has got North End pointing up the Championship, the amount of draws in there holding them back in the middle of the table but it is progress nevertheless.

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Preston North End manager Ryan Lowe celebrates after the victory over Bournemouth at Deepdale

Where he has been the big winner is with his relationship with supporters and how he has pulled together fanbase and club.

There’s a meet the manager evening at Deepdale later in the month and tickets for that were snapped-up within a couple of hours of becoming available.

It will be the first event of its like for more two years, Covid restrictions in that time having prevented them being held.

Lowe will be able to speak face to face with however many people the Great’s Room capacity allows, share his thoughts on where he wants to take North End going forward.

Preston North End manager Ryan Lowe after the win at Peterborough

Actions sometimes speak louder than words and Lowe has already shown the North End faithful what the job means to him.

The run and fist-pump we’d seen at Stoke, West Bromwich Albion, Hull and Peterborough, was finally performed at Deepdale last Saturday after the 2-1 victory over Bournemouth.

It was such a good afternoon Lowe did it twice, first in front of the Bill Shankly Kop and then before the Alan Kelly Town End.

The jogged run-up, punch of the air and banging on the chest is a simple celebration but a significant one too.

It’s a show of unity, of togetherness, and that was part of Lowe’s brief when he took the job.

Supporters and club had drifted, partly through results and the football played, partly through the Covid era which saw physical distance put between them.

Lowe is helping knit things together. So too is the work being done behind the scenes by the Preston Supporters Collective and PNE officials on fan engagement.

North End will be down to single figures of games when they leave the pitch at the Cardiff City Stadium, hopefully with a result which allows Lowe to do his fist-pump.

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Once they’ve played Luton next Wednesday and pause for two-and-a-half weeks, they’ll have just eight games of the regular season to play.

Whether involvement in the play-offs proves a step too far or not, planning of sorts is already underway for next season.

Lowe has spoken on the subject more than once at his press conferences, of the need to start thinking ahead to the 2022/23 campaign.

It’s planning which needs to be done regardless of the takeover talk involving Chris Kirchner.

Whoever are the guardians and custodians of North End, they need to listen to what Lowe requires for next season.

He’s got a core of players who have fitted in very well to what he’s asked of them and built more consistency into their results.

Just think of what a few additions to that core could do, a little more quality in certain positions and a touch more depth.

It might well be that some of the loan players don’t return and they will take some replacing – but let’s not rule out a return just yet.

In Lowe, North End have got a manager who is clear about the direction he wants the club to move in. He’s got that relationship with the fans which is as close as any PNE boss has had for a number of years.

That will be key moving forward, a foundation which needs to be built on.

One of Lowe’s tasks this week was running the rule over North End’s Lancashire FA Senior Cup tie with Liverpool.

It ended with a comfortable 3-0 win for Liverpool, showing the gulf that exists even at reserve/academy level between those at the very top of the English football tree and anything below.

There was a sprinkling of first-team experience in the visitors’ ranks, mainly in the shape of Preston-born Rhys Williams who made double figures of appearances for the Reds last season.

Perhaps it was a lesson that when we watch North End reserves play well and win games in the Central League, there shouldn’t be the automatic expectation that the younger players are ready to step-up to the first-team squad.

Liverpool’s second string we saw on Tuesday play at a higher level and zipped the ball around well.

Allow the young lads time to develop and with the right guidance, first-team football will eventually come their way.

On a sombre note, it was sad this week to learn of the passing of two men who served North End in past years.

Frank O’Farrell and Gordon Lee were at Deepdale in much different eras and in different capacities.

O’Farrell was a wing-half who played for PNE between 1956 and 1961, a team-mate of Sir Tom Finney and a very good one at that.

North End were the last club he played for professionally – a knee cartilage injury forcing him to call it a day as it did many in his era.

He would manage Leicester City in the FA Cup final and then take over from Sir Matt Busby at Manchester United.

Lee was PNE’s manager between December 1981 and December 1983, a tough period financially at Deepdale.

He was a no-thrills boss, inheriting a difficult situation after the sacking of Tommy Docherty.