Dave Seddon’s Preston North End Press View: Playing the name game with Frankie!
Frankie McAvoy has got most things right in his few weeks as the main man at Preston North End.
So much so, he landed the head coach role full-time on Monday this week, 17 points collected from eight games the top line on his CV which he took into the job interview.
Before I get to the serious stuff looking at the job McAvoy has done and what is ahead of him, I’ll start off on a lighter note.
Over the summer one of his jobs will be polishing-up on reporters’ names.
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McAvoy is one of the most polite football coaches at this level that you’ll come across.
He refers to you by name when answering a question in interviews but sometimes putting names to the faces staring at him on Zoom can prove difficult.
Hence most of the local media have at one time or another been called ‘Andy’ by him.
Why? It is because Andy Bayes from Radio Lancashire asks the first set of questions at press conferences and McAvoy gets into the routine of answering him.
By the time he comes round to the written media, he’s stuck in ‘Andy’ mode and we get called that.
At the Barnsley game the other week, Bayes’ colleague Gary Hunt was behind the microphone at Deepdale and still got the full ‘Andy’ treatment!
Meeting McAvoy in live mode at Euxton this week following his appointment, the Scot had a good chuckle about mixing names up.
“Sorry lads, I’m terrible with names, don’t take it personally,” he said.
Terrible with names he might be, McAvoy has proved anything but when it comes to coaching North End and putting points on the board.
Hence him having the interim role turned permanent once the dust had settled on the season.
It would be difficult to begrudge McAvoy his crack at the job, even if your money had gone on someone else.
He passed the audition, five wins, two draws and a single defeat in his eight games as interim boss, up there with the best form in the Championship over that period.
That was hard to ignore and in the end it was a straightforward decision for the PNE hierarchy to make.
Some of the faithful will have misgivings, having favoured an appointment from outside.
Guilt by association with the previous manager Alex Neil who was sacked after one win in nine, is an argument put forward by some. So too the strong form of the last eight games being down to the ‘bounce’ of a different voice.
A No.2 stepping up to the lead role will always have to shake off that association with the man before.
Of course McAvoy and Neil were close, they worked together at three clubs.
But however successful a partnership is, their thinking on certain topics will be different.
McAvoy has chosen to go with more attacking intent than Neil had in his final few months in the job.
He played two up front in every game, something Neil only fleetingly did.
As for new manager or coach ‘bounce’, maybe that happens over two or three matches. But to stretch the good form to eight games is going beyond a mere bounce in my opinion.
Someone stepping up from the coaching staff to become the lead man is nothing new in football, nor so at Preston.
Nobby Stiles, Alan Kelly, Tommy Booth, Brian Kidd, Les Chapman, Gary Peters, David Moyes and Billy Davies have all held office as North End manager having been on the staff previously.
They had varying degrees of success, Stiles, Peters and Moyes all putting a first promotion on their management CVs.
The longer the good run went on under McAvoy, it was harder to argue against his case.
When Peter Ridsdale put McAvoy in temporary charge on March 21, he said in an interview with the Lancashire Post that the Scotsman would be given the chance to land the job.
Not wanting a revolution was also mentioned by the owner’s advisor.
At the time, Ridsdale’s words were dismissed as being the usual thing from the boardroom when a caretaker is placed in charge.
They’ve rung true, though. However I doubt even the most optimistic figure at the top end of the club would have envisaged such a strong points return.
Now that McAvoy has the job, he must be backed in the right way from above.
My interview during the week with the head coach in which he talked about Ridsdale being the lead figure in recruitment, led to plenty of reaction.
Ridsdale has always been involved in the recruitment process, in that transfer fees and wage negotiations have gone through him.
Many times over the years we’ve read reports of him being at a game, leading to speculation about certain players he might have been watching.
For example, Ridsdale and Neil might as well have had season tickets for Oxford United when they were chasing Ryan Ledson’s signature three years ago.
But with the dynamic of McAvoy being the head coach and not the manager, it will be interesting to see how things pan out and where the final decision rests with bringing in a player.
On the flip side of the recruiting process, five first-team players were officially released by PNE this week.
Louis Moult, Billy Bodin, David Nugent, Josh Ginnelly and Graham Burke are coming off the books when their contracts end in June.
Best of luck to them all, the five of them extremely decent people, who from my point of view were very good to interview.
Moult’s pending exit is a sad one in particular, due to his long battle getting fit after that awful knee injury.
Nugent probably regrets coming back but I hope this second spell doesn’t cloud what he did between 2005 and 2007 when he was one of the best attacking talents seen at PNE in a long time.