Adam Lord's PNE Press View: Deepdale stability could be key

At the moment, it's another day, another managerial appointment in the Championship as the pack is well and truly shuffled in the early part of the summer.

Saturday, 2nd June 2018, 12:00 pm
North End manager Alex Neil will not be starting from scratch next season, unlike some of his fellow Championship bosses

All this comes on the back of so many in the second tier making a change, for both good and bad, last season.

The most eye-catching of the new men in the respective hotseats is probably the arrival of Frank Lampard at Derby.

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Frank Lampard has swapped TV punditry for the Derby job

The former Chelsea and England star landing at Pride Park has certainly divided opinion, the Rams acting swiftly after Gary Rowett 
decided Stoke City were a better bet for promotion to the Premier League.

Brave and something that should be welcomed in one way, with a young English manager being given a chance when so many similar names end up landing job after job, Others believe it is the 39-year-old’s name alone that has got him what is a big gig.

Whichever way you look at it, it will be fascinating to see how Lampard goes at a club that will be demanding success next season.

Elsewhere, Paul Hurst has swapped defeated League One play-off finalists Shrewsbury for Ipswich after Mick McCarthy’s departure, while Steve McClaren has replaced Ian Holloway at Queens Park Rangers.

Gary Rowett has joined Stoke City after their relegation from the Premier League

Swansea are also still on the hunt for a new man after parting company with the colourful Carlos Carvalhal after their demotion from the top tier.

On the PNE front, the main question is, will relative stability play into their hands?

We’re heading into a second campaign with Alex Neil as manager, a man who undoubtedly kicked the Lilywhites on last season in more ways than one.

Two 11th-placed finishes became seventh with the play-off bid going to the final day, where North End did their bit against Burton only for Derby to sweep aside Barnsley with a 4-1 win that relegated the Tykes.

Now the task is to build on that and more improvement under Neil would represent a place in the top six, something which everyone involved at Deepdale is well aware is far easier said than done.

They may hold an advantage over others who are starting afresh, though.

Neil insisted after the victory over Burton that an “overhaul” on the playing front was out of the question.

The Scot insisted instead that he wanted to “grow” the squad and a key improvement here or there looks the most likely approach during the off-season, both in the transfer market and on the training pitch.

For others, who maybe have to rip things up and start from scratch, the task of achieving success is perhaps greater.

That takes varying forms, be it a club dropping down the from the Premier League with Stoke, Swansea and West Bromwich Albion likely to have to shake things up considerably.

Or a club like Aston Villa, who have admitted themselves, via a statement from chairman Tony Xia, that missing out on a return to the top flight means Financial Fair Play will bite and they will have to cut their cloth accordingly.

Situations like that will surely only push a play-off door that is certainly ajar for North End even further open?

There is, however, certainly an argument that change is on occasions far from a bad thing.

Look at North End as one clear example.

There was plenty of uncertainty when Simon Grayson ended his – by current standards – lengthy time in charge at Deepdale to take up the challenge of reviving Sunderland’s fortunes on the first day of pre-season training last summer.

Things didn’t go to plan for the departing boss, who is now looking for his third job since leaving the Lilywhites, while PNE progressed on several fronts.

There are differences, though, between the events in the North End boardroom last July and some of those going on around the Championship at the moment.

By his own admission, Neil inherited a situation where nothing was really broken after more than four years of Grayson.

He was tasked by the PNE hierarchy with taking the club through the gears and ultimately, be it in a season, two or three, doing what he’d done first with Hamilton and then Norwich – win promotion to the top flight.

One year in and Preston are certainly in a good position to have a tilt at that next time around.

Going by the results of our big end-of-season survey, supporters certainly don’t think it is out of the question by any stretch.

Many thanks to those who took part, the results giving us a good picture of what is a happy camp ahead of what could be an exciting season.

With 80 per cent agreeing that last season’s efforts were beyond expectations, 66 per cent of you believe the play-offs should be the target this time around.

A healthy 27 per cent go one further and think promotion to the so-called Promised Land should be on the cards.

Whichever way you voted, North End certainly look in a better place than some to mount a charge.