Former Preston defender Callum Davidson a strong outside bet to replace Alex Neil

Preston find themselves in the market for a new manager for the first time since July 2017, following the departure of Alex Neil.

By Joe Whitaker
Friday, 26th March 2021, 12:50 pm
Updated Friday, 26th March 2021, 12:54 pm

The tenure of Neil will be remembered fondly enough by the Deepdale faithful, with a good record in local derbies and punching above their weight in terms of previous finishing positions in the league.

The fondness was quickly evaporating however, and the corridors of power at Deepdale were becoming increasingly concerned with the slump in form bringing the prospect of a relegation battle evermore real. So, who next?

The lists available online are always very long, with some farcical names on there, which can be ruled out immediately. I would not recommend investing much in a bet of this kind as its highly likely those making the decision will have a name or two in mind already.

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Callum Davidson

The club made a statement stating interim boss Frankie McAvoy, Neil’s former right-hand man, will get the chance to put a forward his case for the job permanently.

The rules for next manager state an interim boss must complete ten competitive games in charge to be considered the next manager.

The trouble is McAvoy only has eight games of the season left, so he would need to do well for him to be given longer, hence him being available to back at 18/1.

That’s not say he wont do OK though, and if they do manage to get off to a good start in the next three weeks, the pressure will be off the squad, which is always a good place to be in when looking to play well.

Personally, I think the club are keen to promote from within and keep some continuity, hoping McAvoy will be able to bring the good parts of Neil’s tenure with a fresh idea or two of his own.

The onus will most likely be on creating more chances and becoming harder to beat, but ultimately, wins are needed, and I think McAvoy will need to win three or four to be considered come the end of May.

A quick glance at the remaining fixtures suggests this won’t be easy.

If they do make an external appointment, it really is anyone’s guess currently and the list would change if the unthinkable happened and they did go down.

The pandemic has changed football and the club are still waiting to see just how it will work out in terms of getting fans back on seats. What is consistent however, is that if they are sat at home or in the ground, fans need to be entertained, or the relationship becomes strained.

Manchester United legend Nicky Butt (4/9) finds himself the current favourite after leaving a coaching role at Old Trafford. The bookies appear to have put two and two together, though I would be slightly surprised if it is anything more than this, but you never know!

Grant McCann (16/1) has got Hull City to the top of League One, playing good football and being the second highest scorers in the football league behind Brentford. It is doubtful he would agree to come to Deepdale if he brought Hull up to their level though.

A more realistic option would be Michael Appleton (16/1) who has taken Lincoln to the dizzy heights of fourth in League One. His management career has been patchy though he does appear to have matured and he could be ready for a job like Preston now.

Should Peter Ridsdale be interviewing in early summer, I would be surprised if he doesn’t get a look in given his previous connections with the club.

Another former fan favourite is Gareth Ainsworth (5/1) who has stated on record his fondness for the club recently. He is managing a side bottom of our league though and the club may be put off slightly by this.

The one name I do think has a realistic chance is Callum Davidson at St Johnstone.

He is making a name for himself north of the border having guided the club to win the Scottish League Cup.

He is clearly still raw though he brings an enthusiasm that was perhaps lacking in Neil towards the end which I can see the club being attracted to. He played for North End during one of their more successful periods of their recent history and at 20/1 he could be worth a small investment

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