Simon Grayson says he is not surprised to see Preston at the top end of the Championship as he prepares to make his Deepdale return on Saturday.
Grayson brought to an end his near four-and-a-half -year association with PNE when he took the Sunderland job in the summer.
While a move to the Black Cats had its attractions, it has proved tough going for the 47-year-old so far.
After two draws and a win in the first three league games, they have lost six and drawn once in the Championship.
They arrive at Deepdale in 23rd place, Grayson having much work ahead of him.
The club he left behind sit fifth, his successor Alex Neil having driven North End on.
“When I left that football club I left some very talented players," Grayson told EFL sponsors Sky Bet.
“When you look at them you probably have a squad with a current value of about £20m and we probably spent about £2m to put it together.
“I think it’s reflected that Alex has not really had to bring too many players in because he felt he had a good squad there, which I definitely knew, but ultimately he’s made his mark and got off to a good start.
“I’m pleased for them, I’m pleased for the supporters because it’s obviously a club that I’ve got a lot of affiliation to.
“You spend four-and-a-half years at a club and you get to know supporters, you get a working relationship with people above you, the owner, and you have a lot of respect for them.
“It was certainly a tough decision to make when I left that club and I look back with fond memories.
“But it’s about what I do in the future and obviously I’ll be desperate to go back and try and get three points.”
Three players with Preston connections will be on board the Sunderland team coach with Grayson.
Aiden McGeady, Billy Jones and Tyias Browning have all worn the white shirt.
McGeady was North End’s player of the year when on loan from Everton last season.
While PNE looked into the possibility of bringing him back for a second loan spell, the dynamics changed when Grayson left.
McGeady made the switch to Sunderland from Everton in July, signing a three-year deal.
Right-back Browning made the same move, but on a season-long loan.
He spent the second half of last season on loan with North End but it was interrupted by a lengthy absence with a knee injury.
Grayson made Browning one of his first signings when he moved to Wearside.
Jones’ time at Deepdale pre-dated that of Grayson – he was a Preston player for four seasons between 2007 and 2011.
In that time, he made 174 appearances, scoring 13 goals from both full-back positions.
Sunderland were beaten 5-2 at Ipswich on Tuesday night, Grayson demanding a reaction from his side when speaking post-match.
He said: “I’m not going to sit here and say everything is fine because it’s not, we’re in the bottom three, we’ve been beaten heavily.”