Q&A With Preston North End

  • March 11, 2016 | By Chris Mann
  • URL Short URL: http://b-ac.es/01678

Steve Ward shares the Preston North End view on a surprise top-half finish, Jermaine Beckford's injury-ravaged season, as well as Neil Lennon's future.

Wanderers welcome North End to Macron Stadium for the first time in 16 years on Saturday, as they look to begin a new era under the ownership of Dean Holdsworth and Ken Anderson by picking up a victory that would boost their slim chances of survival.

In our latest edition of Q&A, we have got the views of Steve (@WardyPne).

Q: Earlier this season, you told us you'd be happy as long as Preston finished outside the relegation places at the end of the campaign. With 10 games to go, North End rank 10th in the Championship and are seven points away from the play-offs. What have you made of your first season back at this level and can you make it into the top six between now and May?

A: We have had a very good season so far, but the play-offs are out of reach for me. I will be extremely happy with a mid-table finish and then push on again next season.

This season has shown anyone can beat anyone in this league and it's been a season of adapting but also making our mark, with some fantastic wins - especially away at Burnley and other good results against the top six.

Q: Having taken over an average League One side in 2013, Simon Grayson's record as manager is outstanding. Now three years into the job, what are the key reasons behind his success at Deepdale?

A: He inherited a team in turmoil after the Graham Westley era and we were in danger of getting into relegation trouble in League One, so the transformation has been fantastic.

He has had the full backing of our owner, Trevor Hemmings, and while we have a small budget in comparison to the rest of the league he has assembled a solid squad that, with a few additions next season, could possibly mount a play-off challenge.

The football at times hasn't been pretty but it has brought results and while some supporters have questioned his ability to manage at this level, he has proved them wrong so far this season.

He has also used the loan market to his advantage during his tenure. This season, for example, our current squad has the likes of Adam Reach, Anders Lindegaard, Marnie Vermijl, Callum Robinson & Eion Doyle on loan.

Q: Jermaine Beckford will miss out on a return to Macron Stadium, having made just two substitute appearances this season before undergoing knee surgery. With his presence in the side, do you think the campaign would have turned out differently?

A: I think Joe Garner would have more goals for sure, as Joe, who is unfortunately suspended for the game this weekend, has had to play up on his own or with strikers not as good as Jermaine.

It's hard to say if we would be higher up in the league for sure, but I definitely think we would have a more potent attack if he was available this season as at times we have missed his finishing ability.

We have also lost Stevie May through a serious knee injury after his near million-pound move from Sheffield Wednesday, so we have been unlucky with strikers this season.

Unfortunately Jordan Hugill and Eion Doyle haven't stepped up with goals as of yet, but one will start on Saturday so they have another chance. Callum Robinson, who we have back on loan from Aston Villa, is starting to find his feet with us, with two goals in his last three games.

Q: Switching back to our reverse fixture, you also told us Bolton boss Neil Lennon had everything required to have the club further up the table. With relegation likely a matter of weeks away, do you still think we should be achieving much more?

A: I think the off-field problems have affected your season more than I ever thought they would. Squad wise you have some big names and for some reason or another they haven't managed to get you the points to survive so far.

Neil Lennon seems to have struggled to too and I do think that he needs to take responsibility for the teams performance.

A big overhaul in the summer is needed to clear out the big names and money earners to help you not only survive as a club, but push for a return to the Championship if indeed you do go down.

Q: After the two sides played out a goalless draw back in October, and based on highlights throughout the campaign, who strikes you as our biggest threat to the Lilywhites hopes of claiming victory at the weekend?

A: Without doubt Zach Clough, as he looks a real talent for the future.

Q: Finally, what is your score prediction for Saturday's game?

A: 2-1 Preston.

Burnden Aces would like to thank Steve for taking the time to answer our questions. You can read more from him on Twitter - @WardyPne.

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