Next Preston North End manager needs to grow the crowds at Deepdale

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Preston North End's next manager will have plenty of work to do off the pitch as well as the usual tasks asked of him on the field of play.

It is a fractured fanbase at PNE at the moment, attendances having taken a tumble and supporters feel disengaged.

Frankie McAvoy had a tough gig in his six months in the permanent head coach role, a tenure which was brought to a halt on Monday teatime.

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His dismissal came 48 hours after Saturday's 1-0 defeat at Blackburn Rovers, that a second derby reverse in six weeks after Blackpool came out on top at Bloomfield Road.

Frankie McAvoy was sacked as Preston North End head coach on Monday eveningFrankie McAvoy was sacked as Preston North End head coach on Monday evening
Frankie McAvoy was sacked as Preston North End head coach on Monday evening

Results were up and down, McAvoy unable to coax consistency from his players.

Although they have a nine-point cushion between themselves and 22nd place, the worry had developed at Deepdale that further inconsistency over the winter could see the gap narrowed into something a bit more uncomfortable.

The view of the hierarchy is that the squad is better than the current 18th place and that McAvoy wasn't exploiting their full potential.

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McAvoy's audition for the job was very much a screen test in terms of the PNE faithful.

Frankie McAvoy's last stand was at Blackburn on SaturdayFrankie McAvoy's last stand was at Blackburn on Saturday
Frankie McAvoy's last stand was at Blackburn on Saturday

His eight games as interim head coach were all behind closed doors, iFollow and the red button the only way supporters could watch.

Once the Scot landed the job full-time in early May, he couldn't wait until pre-season to start engaging with the fans.

But that wasn't without its difficulties. Only three of the pre-season friendlies ended up being played with the Preston faithful present.

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Rain washed away the traditional curtain raiser against Bamber Bridge from public view, it taking place at Euxton instead.

Plymouth Argyle manager Ryan Lowe is the bookies favourite for the PNE jobPlymouth Argyle manager Ryan Lowe is the bookies favourite for the PNE job
Plymouth Argyle manager Ryan Lowe is the bookies favourite for the PNE job

Visiting fans were then locked out of the two friendlies played in Scotland against St Johnstone and Celtic

Games against Bolton Wanderers at Leyland and then away to Accrington Stanley gave some North End fans a look at McAvoy and his squad.

Then the game at Manchester City went behind closed doors and the scheduled clash with Manchester United was cancelled with less than 48 hours notice due to a Covid scare in the Red Devils camp.

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In between was a Friday night out in Wigan which a largely second string PNE side featured.

McAvoy lost his first three Championship games before things picked up with wins over Peterborough and Swansea - progress was also made in the Carabao Cup.

September was a month of league draws but October was the beginning of his downfall.

The goalless draw with Derby wasn't well received before a win over Coventry calmed the waters.

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However, the October 23 visit to Blackpool saw a 2-0 defeat and the fans were unforgiving.

That result was the albatross which hung around McAvoy's neck for the next six weeks.

The wins North End got from then on - Luton at home, Bournemouth away - PNE the first side to beat the Cherries - and Middlesbrough, were viewed as only 'papering over the cracks'.

That was a harsh view, any victory in the Championship is hard-earned and McAvoy got it tactically right at Bournemouth for example, so too from half an hour into the draw with Fulham.

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On the flip side, things went wrong in other games. Chasing a deficit against Cardiff and Blackburn for example, North End hardly created a chance.

His 3-5-2 system wasn't popular with the paying public, it viewed as being over cautious even with two up front which brought the best out of Emil Riis for example.

PNE chose to make a change on Monday - the 10th anniversary of Peter Ridsdale's arrival at Deepdale.

They'd seen a pattern of a win here, a draw there and then a defeat. Only twice had North End won two Championship games on the bounce.

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Blackburn in the rain was McAvoy's last stand. He spoke post-match in the Ewood Park press theatre of falling on the wrong side of fine margins and you had sympathy for him on that score - the penalty which wasn't given for example.

In a results business though, fine margins count for nothing. There is no column for those in the table.

A quote McAvoy used himself often in press conferences was 'there are only three outcomes - you win, you draw or you lose'.

Ultimately, there weren't enough wins and there were too many defeats.

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McAvoy was a thoroughly decent bloke, a gentleman. He had some rubbish thrown his way on social media, things taken beyond the actual result of the game.

He was deeply engrained in the club, having been here since July 2017 having arrived with Alex Neil.

Roots were put down in the Preston from the start, with the family home in the city.

Attention now turns to hiring McAvoy's successor, a manager already in work we are told..

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Plymouth Argyle boss Ryan Lowe emerged as the bookies' favourite on Monday evening, with Callum Davidson also attracting good odds after the job he's done at St Johnstone.

Roy Keane's name has been mentioned - in work as a television pundit but not a manager.

There is a confidence the new man will be in post before Saturday's game against Barnsley, time clearly of the essence for North End.

This isn't seen as the right time to audition a caretaker or appoint from within.

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Appointing now gives the new boss the rest of the month to assess the squad before the January transfer window opens.

McAvoy wasn't the first PNE manager/head coach to have the axe fall on them in December.

Back in the 1980s, Tommy Docherty and Gordon Lee went as Christmas approached.

In more recent years, Alan Irvine, Darren Ferguson and Phil Brown all went either side of Christmas.

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A new man in the technical area on Saturday should give the crowd numbers a bounce, then the work starts long-term to get the turnstiles clicking and delivering results.

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