Former Preston North End boss confesses Ryan Lowe surprise and praises stance adopted by Deepdale outfit

PNE can boost their Championship play-off ambitions with victory against rock-bottom Rotherham on Friday

Ex-Preston North End boss Simon Grayson has praised his former club for sticking by Ryan Lowe this season.

And it’s a stance the 54-year-old believes other clubs could learn from as the Lilywhites remain Championship play-off contenders.

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Sections of the Deepdale fan base were calling for Lowe to be sacked after witnessing their side win just three games from 16 second-tier outings in the period between late September and Christmas. That prompted PNE owner Craig Hemmings and director Peter Ridsdale to release a joint club statement in support of their manager following the late loss at the hands of Swansea. But criticism remained as the one-time Championship leaders secured just one win during the whole of January - putting further pressure on the manager’s position.

Such carping has understandably eased in recent weeks, with Preston North End picking up five wins since the beginning of February - including impressive victories against Ipswich, Coventry and Middlesbrough - and bagging 17 points from a possible 24 to put themselves back into play-off contention. Indeed, just five points separate Lowe’s ninth-placed side and sixth-placed Norwich, who have played a game more, heading into Friday’s fixture against bottom-of-the-table Rotherham.

And as Preston retain hope of a top-six finish, Grayson congratulated his former employers for standing by their man. He also said he was surprised how certain fans had turned on the former Plymouth boss.

Speaking to, Grayson said: “I have sympathy for every coach or manager up and down the country because I've been through it. When you get scrutinised, you get stick, but also when you get the plaudits you've got to accept that as well. Both sides.

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“I'm surprised the stick that Ryan got a little bit but Preston are a really good club, they stand by their managers. Peter Ridsdale and the owners came out and said: ‘Look, we're staying behind Ryan’ and that's been positive because the fans have accepted it and then they’ve had some really good results in the last few weeks, which has got them to a better position with a chance of getting into the play-offs.

“That could be a good yardstick for other clubs going forward in the future. They'll give it their real good shot and the expectancy level is to try and get into the Premier League but there is a realistic expectancy level.

“There is not the demand that they have to do it where there maybe is at Leicester, Leeds and other clubs but there is an expectancy level that they would like to go there because they’ve never been in the Premier League.”

Preston have nine games left to return to the Championship’s top six. Four of those fixtures are at home - against Rotherham, Huddersfield, Norwich and Leicester. Their five away games are against Birmingham, Watford, Southampton, QPR and West Brom.

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