Road test for new PNE boss

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If Simon Grayson was expecting a gentle introduction to life as Preston North End manager, then a quick glance at the club’s forthcoming fixture list would indicate otherwise.

Five of North End’s next six games are away from home – including tomorrow’s clash against top-of-the-table Swindon Town.

Hernia op: Joel Byrom will be missing tomorrow

Hernia op: Joel Byrom will be missing tomorrow

Grayson, though, refuses to shy away from the challenges that lie in wait. Indeed, he feels the next few weeks are a great chance for his new squad of players to show their mettle.

“It’s a perfect opportunity for me to look at the players in some real pressurised games,” he said.

“I suppose if we can get on a run, a lot of teams at the the top end of the division won’t be wanting to play us because it will mean they will be dropping points at the vital stage of the season.

“We need to pick up points for our own benefit so that we can finish the season as positively as possible.

“The players went and beat Bournemouth last weekend – so why can’t they do it again against Swindon tomorrow?”

Grayson admits he has no idea whether Swindon’s off-the-field problems will have any bearing on tomorrow’s match.

As he was being named as North End’s new boss on Monday, Paolo Di Canio was tendering his resignation to the Swindon board.

The Robins proved they can cope without the talismanic Italian in midweek by beating fellow promotion chasers Tranmere Rovers at Prenton Park – a match which Grayson witnessed.

However, further chaos then descended upon the club in the immediate aftermath of 
the match against Rovers when Di Canio’s assistant and caretaker manager Fabrizio Piccareta also quit the club, along with many of the backroom staff.

Swindon have now appointed two of their more senior players Darren Ward and Tommy Miller to take charge of first-team affairs until they find a permanent successor to Di Canio.

“I haven’t got a clue whether it will help us or not,” Grayson said.

“All I will say is that their players did a very professional job in beating a very good side in Tranmere the other night. What has happened has happened, at Swindon. I can’t affect that. I am not too concerned about what is happening at Swindon Town.

“All I want is for my players to go down there, work hard for each other and play to their potential.

“Hopefully, we will get a result.

“I think if you look at Swindon, they have got some good experience.

“Tommy Miller and Darren Ward have taken over the club – I know Tommy from my time at Huddersfield last season.

“Gary Roberts is a good player and the two strikers Andy Williams and James Collins are a handful, so they’ve got some good experienced players.

“They’ve spent a lot of money over the summer to try to get to where they are now.

“But it’s a football match, XI v XI. We respect them but we certainly don’t fear them and hopefully we can continue where we left off last weekend.”

While refusing to give his first team selection away for tomorrow’s game, Grayson hinted that the vast majority of last weekend’s squad will be on duty against the Robins.

Graham Cummins and Paul Connolly could come into the reckoning after missing the game against Bournemouth, although one player definitely out is Joel Byrom, who has undergone a hernia operation this week.

“A lot of the players certainly did themselves justice last weekend, so it’s not for me to come in and change it dramatically after a win,” Grayson said.

“Sometimes the players need that little bit of continuity.

“When they feel that they’ve done a good job and put in a good performance, it’s only fair that they keep the shirt.

“But it’s been good this week. I met the players on Monday, and then Tuesday morning it was full steam ahead with the session that we had.

“We tried to get a few things across to the players but it’s not something which is going to happen overnight. It was nothing too drastic.”