My legacy lives on at Preston
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.
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.
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.
STAR TURN: Scott Laird, right, keeps tabs on Manchester United’s Antonio Valencia