PNE’s kiss of death strikes again

Bookies Betfair make Simon Grayson third favourite for the Villa job
Bookies Betfair make Simon Grayson third favourite for the Villa job
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Roberto Di Matteo’s last hurrah as Aston Villa manager was Saturday’s defeat to Preston – a pattern which has emerged over the past year.

The Italian is the sixth manager in less than 12 months to have left his post within a few days of a game against PNE.

Guy Luzon, Dougie Freedman, Steve Cotterill, Paul Clement and Neil Lennon suffered the same fate last season.

Although Steve Evans’ final game in charge of Leeds was at North End in May, the sack was coming his way in the summer regardless of what happened.

Di Matteo was on rocky ground ahead of the Preston clash, the trip up the M6 seen as key to his employment prospects.

Villa had won only one of 11 games under his stewardship, with seven draws being the albatross around the neck.

Before facing PNE, they had drawn 1-1 at Barnsley last Tuesday night – pegged back by a last-minute equaliser.

The common consensus around Villa ahead of the two away games was for Di Matteo to keep his job, he needed a win from one of them.

With North End taking a fifth-minute lead through Ben Pearson and then doubling it before half-time when Jordan Hugill netted, the writing was on the wall for the one-time Champions League Chelsea boss.

It was the PNE supporters who started the ‘sacked in the morning chant’ but it was Villa’s 5,400 travelling fans singing it loudest during the second half.

Di Matteo put on a brave front post-match, insisting he still had the backing of Villa owner Dr Tony Xia

“There is total support from the club, absolutely,” Di Matteo told reporters. “There is no other indication. We will have to try to be better after the international break and try to pick up more points that we have so far.”

Various names have been linked with the vacancy, Steve Bruce the big favourite.

Ironically, bookies Betfair had Simon Grayson – who could be said to have hammered the final nail into Di Matteo’s coffin – as third favourite at 7/1, behind Bruce and Brentford manager Dean Smith.

Grayson had two years as a player at Villa in the late 90s and was linked with the Villa job in the summer.

So what is it about losing to Preston which sees clubs printing out the P45?

Mere coincidence maybe, North End just happening to be on the fixture card when results have reached a tipping point.

Or is, ‘If they don’t beat Preston’ now up there with ‘but can they do it at Stoke on a wet, windy night in January’ in football’s well-worn book of one-liners?

Perhaps it is a bit of both, for example, Freedman’s sacking by Nottingham Forest in March was five days after they actually beat PNE.

Cotterill got his cards at Bristol City within 48 hours of North End’s 2-1 win over the Robins at Ashton Gate.

Bolton showed Lennon the Macron Stadium exit door three days after Preston won 2-1 there on Gentry Day.

Clement went at Derby following a 0-0 draw in February, while last October, PNE’s 3-0 win over Charlton was the penultimate game in charge for Luzon.