Former Preston North End hero Steve Wilkinson says Frankie McAvoy can follow in footsteps of successful No.2s

Former Preston favourite Steve Wilkinson can draw parallels between the current North End set-up and the era when he used to play for the club.

Saturday, 29th May 2021, 8:00 am

The ex-striker enjoyed a two-year spell with the Lilywhites from 1995 to 1997.

The highlight of his time at Deepdale was being part of the Third Division title success which was secured exactly 25 years ago this month.

Back then, North End stormed to the championship with Gary Peters as manager.

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Preston North End head coach Frankie McAvoy

He – like current head coach Frankie McAvoy – had begun life at Deepdale as a No.2 before being promoted to the top job.

Peters served under John Beck for around two years in the early 1990s but was charged with reviving the club’s fortunes towards the end of the 1993-94 campaign after Beck’s tenure had faltered.

The former assistant turned North End around, leading them to promotion and then consolidating their position in the division above, before making way in 1998 for his own assistant – and Wilkinson’s former PNE team-mate David Moyes – who then went on to lead North End into the Championship two years later.

McAvoy has been at Alex Neil’s side throughout his managerial career and became part of the backroom staff at Deepdale once the former Norwich boss took over at PNE in 2017.

Steve Wilkinson in his PNE days

However, he stepped up to take the No.1 position on a temporary basis following the removal of Neil earlier this year after a poor run of results which saw the team flirt with the Championship’s relegation zone.

Happily, McAvoy’s fresh approach worked wonders as he presided over a run of five wins, two draws and one defeat over the remaining eight games as PNE finished in a comfortable 13th position and he was subsequently offered the job permanently.

Wilkinson admits it can’t be easy for a No.2 to step up but history at Preston has proven that assistants are more than capable of producing the goods when handed the top role.

BillyDavies is another ex-PNE No.2 who, like Moyes and Peters before him, flourished when he took charge and Wilkinson sees no reason why McAvoy cannot follow in their footsteps.

Gary Peters (right) was No.2 to Preston boss John Beck (left)

“It can’t be easy when you have always been a right-hand man, a support network for the boss,” said Wilkinson. “It’s like, ‘Right you’re the boss now’. I remember with Gary, I would not go as far as to say he was tough but we always knew who was the boss, who was picking the team.

“But he gave us that freedom to express ourselves within the boundaries of the team’s structure.”