WEST­LEY:

My le­gacy lives on at Pre­ston

The Football League Paper - - FRONT PAGE -

IT was a strange ex­pe­ri­ence for me to watch Pre­ston take on the might of Manch­ester United. I wasn’t the only one to see a lit­tle irony in the open­ing goal as I re­ceived a text mes­sage not­ing that two of my ‘le­gacy’ play­ers, Joe Gar­ner and Scott Laird, had com­bined to put Pre­ston ahead.

I had signed both lads on free trans­fers dur­ing a pe­riod of ‘revo­lu­tion’ in which we dramatically cut the cost of Pre­ston’s play­ing bud­get and com­pletely re­freshed the squad.

I must ad­mit I en­joyed see­ing that goal go in with the knowl­edge that those lads were part of what I built in my 13 months at Deep­dale.

I knew I was in trou­ble at Pre­ston on the Novem­ber night in 2012 when we played Notts County at Deep­dale.We drew 0-0 to move to seven games un­beaten but that wasn’t the is­sue. Both of my full-backs, Keith Keane and Lairdy, left the field with se­ri­ous in­juries. Keano in­jured his car­ti­lage in his knee while Scott broke his leg.

Vi­tal

At the time, we were go­ing well and had be­gun to set­tle down into a rhythm with six wins, five draws and just two de­feats in 13.

But we won just two and drew five of the 13 games that fol­lowed. And I could have called that when the fi­nal whis­tle blew in the County game. In my heart I knew that the squad wasn’t ready to cope with­out the grit of those two sat in the treat­ment room. I hadn’t had time to build depth into my new squad.

They were both the type of player who could gal­vanise a team; they were vi­tal in­gre­di­ents.

As in­deed is Joe Gar­ner whose ab­sence has co-in­cided with a more re­cent drop in Pre­ston’s form. Big play­ers make a big dif­fer­ence.

As I watched lads who I brought into PNE for free or brought on at PNE (Paul Hunt­ing- ton, John Welsh, Joe, Scott and Bai­ley Wright) play against United, it was ev­i­dent to me that I had left a de­cent core in place at the club. More than two years af­ter I was sacked, 50 per cent of the out­field start­ing 11 were lads brought in for free or, in Bai­ley’s case, given game time by me.

Re­sults

When a manager leaves a club, he is rarely re­mem­bered for the good work that he did. More of­ten for the run of re­sults that saw him nailed to his cross.

Mon­day’s game was sat­is­fy­ing for me in re­mind­ing me that a le­gacy does run deeper than a dodgy re­sult or two.

PIC­TURE: Ac­tion Images

STAR TURN: Scott Laird, right, keeps tabs on Manch­ester United’s An­to­nio Va­len­cia

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