presents a complete mess of a post, coincidentally celebrating the third anniversary of finally sacking off GarnersLight
. There's a lot here, so I hope you enjoy me going off on tangents and letting all of my feelings out. Club:
Preston North End Manager:
Alex Neil Current table position:
6th, 56 points One thing to sum up the season:
We loaned out Graham Burke who went on to score 5 goals in a game for Shamrock Rovers. How the season has gone so far:
Fun. Starting with a bad loss away to Millwall on the opening day was never going to be the best of starts. However, some good home wins followed against Wigan Athletic, Sheffield Wednesday and not to forget Jack Butland single-handedly winning us the game against Stoke. Consistency has been key to our season, as we have flirted with the playoffs all season. It could have been better, as I found myself on the receiving end of a one week ban from /soccer
for some distasteful comments after Kyle Edwards won a penalty with one of the most blatant dives you'll see in the 90th minute to win it for West Brom.
As lockdown approached, the squad began to put in tired performances, in the FA Cup against Norwich, a Lancashire Senior Cup humiliation against a Blackburn U23s side in which a certain Tyrhys Dolan broke onto the scene (but hold onto this for now) and three consecutive defeats with terrible performances against West Brom, Fulham and most damningly throwing away a 1-0 lead against QPR as Geoff Cameron unleashed his inner Geoff Cameron to get sent off and former YelST cult hero Jordan Hugill decided to rip our defence to shreds. However, our poor performances are not exclusively down to fitness, as some baffling tactics such as long ball to Sean Maguire and Alex Neil telling Scott Sinclair and Ben Pearson to stay back when the break was on on at least two occasions. I've always affirmed that while Alex Neil is highly tactically astute, he sometimes forgets the most basic parts of how to set up a team - an adaptation of a common problem I've been aware of where when you're really good at something (i.e. Maths) you forget the basics because you've got that much knowledge (i.e. times tables, this is a true story I've been told at university and fully believe it)
Nothing would top our 5-1 win against Barnsley, where former loan star Ben Pearson would decide he's had enough of not scoring, in style
which could well be my favorite goal. It isn't the best by a long shot, but my god did he need that. Beating Blackburn 3-2 after being 2-0 down was nice, but that shouldn't have happened. In a rare instance, Jayden Stockley found himself useful there. We were also fortunate enough to come up against Manchester City in the League Cup, we rotated our key players out however Joe Rafferty put in the performance of a lifetime. The part where Yel praises some players:
We have some bloody good players in our team. Ben Pearson
is obviously the best of the lot and fills a niche that England are looking for. A horrible little bastard who's a defensive midfielder and who will gladly split someone in two. This doesn't excuse some of the tackles I've seen on him this season, or for him for that matter, but he'll do everything to win and that's the key thing. Ben Davies
is another who is an obvious star in the team and one of the better defenders in the Championship. Commonly referred to as a Rolls-Royce, he possesses a great passing range and is hard to beat. He has made a few errors but at 24 he has the time to cut them out. Besides, it's usually because of a tactical mistake he's forced into these, where someone breaks through and Davies or Bauer need to act. Speaking of Patrick Bauer
, what a player we got on a free. I've got no idea why he was in League One, he's Premier League level. Darnell Fisher
is also a shithouse and found himself strangled by James McClean, who would later go on to injure himself badly trying to hurt Pearson. McClean wasn't sent off for either. So maybe a later section I'm writing isn't entirely
true. He also surprised everyone by nearly scoring his first-ever free kick at the first attempt from 30 yards out at home to rivals Blackburn! Joe Rafferty
has emerged from nowhere as the team's star left back, only finding himself beaten when pushing forward or being told to pass the ball around the back, but as a pure defender he's sublime and is an outside shot for Stephen Kenny's first Ireland squad. Especially his performance against Manchester City, forcing them to attack down the middle and rely on Raheem Sterling's wizardry as he and an out of position Browne held them back. Poor Bernardo didn't stand a chance that night. Tom Barkhuizen
and Scott Sinclair
are both deadly when driving at defenders, the only issue is that Neil doesn't want them to, telling them to track back instead. Sinclair is a serious contender for future captain, he leads by example and wants to win. Daniel Johnson
has been decent but most of his goals have been penalties. He's no key player by any means but he's been effective and has a 100% penalty record competitively for PNE. Josh Harrop
I think is better, beginning to come into his own despite injuries, is lethal
from set pieces and works hard. He needs his chance because he's definitely good enough. For some reason, Neil still won't trust him at corners and far worse players often take them. The part where Yel shits on some players:
Yeah, so some players haven't really performed. Despite Alan Browne
being arguably ready to move up a level, he's been poor this season at points due to off the field incidents. He's also been captain at points but he isn't a leader by any means, which hasn't helped. He's had to shuffle positions a bit but he's finding his feet now and should be key in the run-in. Paul Gallagher
has taken 5 penalties resulting in 5 goals (Note that I don't say he's scored 5 penalties because he officially hasn't) and has demonstrated some good passing at times. His set pieces are often terrible though and is clearly on a downwards slope. However, he's doing his badges at PNE and is manager(?) of the under 16s, discovering a lad called Aaron Bennett who may find himself in the first team - he's meant to be the next big thing. Although the Welshman won't be, because he's about the height of Mathieu Valbuena. Jayden Stockley
has been lazy at points this season and has had far too many chances, often blowing them by not being assed enough including a half-time hooking away to Chorley in the Lancashire Senior Cup and whatever the fuck that showing was against Blackburn's U23s. It's not all down to Stockley though - he's been expected to run onto balls while Sean Maguire
has been expected to win them in the air...Stockley is a big lad with aerial presence, Maguire is 5'6" and injuries have ruined him. David Nugent
can kind of do both, but struggles to finish. His experience should come in useful and to be fair our wingers can't exactly cross. Brad Potts
has also been lazy, our record signing suddenly becomes amazing when running into space though. Tom Clarke
has aged too much and is being used as a right-back despite turning like milk. He's a club legend, and will return as a coach hopefully, but for now it's time to move on. Ryan Ledson
and Tom Bayliss
are good players who deserve more of a chance. Even if Johnson and Gallagher don't play, Ledson can hit a good penalty, giving him that extra bit of justification to play. There's also Andrew Hughes
, he exists. Rafferty hasn't done much wrong though, bar his red card against Fulham, he doesn't offer much bar a good free-kick, something Harrop can already do better, so I don't know. Probably the one player I'd bin in the summer over anyone else. Key stat(s) of the season:
We've had 11 penalties this season! I don't know how, or why, but maybe Championship referees this season have decided to finally give us back some good karma as the likes of Sean Maguire take well-timed tumbles and eat some grim tackles as Paul Gallagher and Daniel Johnson find some easy ways to stat pad for the season. But on a serious note, we do seem to have become more adept at winning them which has helped us immensely this season, although a wrongly not given penalty was the reason we didn't make the playoffs in 17/18... it's all a conspiracy. Any news from the season break?:
A number of players have been working in a number of schemes. Breakout star and biggest prospect in years Tyrhys Dolan began an Instagram podcast where he helped to uncover upcoming talent by giving them the spotlight on a show partially supported by Mason Greenwood, in between intensive individual training sessions. We released him.
Sadly, Josh Ginnelly lost his close friend Christian Mbulu during lockdown. There were rumours due to the address given that it was Gino who had passed but these were quickly proven untrue. Gino, along with close friends including Ntumba Masskanka of nearby Chorley FC have been helping raise money for his family. You can find the fundraiser here.
The entire first team squad have donated to help get hampers to the needy. You can find this separate fundraiser here.
I do like how we support the community, it's why we're the Gentry. How will you fare financially in the future?:
This is a tough one. Pre-COVID, I was aware of a potential summer mutiny over owner Trevor Hemmings' handling of the club with key players set to leave, including Declan Rudd. However, Dec then decided to praise Hemmings
after the outbreak and announcement the players would be paid in full as usual. To be fair, you have to credit Hemmings for that. Well, that or the knowledge you won't be having to move to West Ham.
If a Premier League offer comes in for one of our players - and no doubt some will, as Ben Pearson and Ben Davies have been heavily linked with Prem moves in the past. They, as well as summer signing Patrick Bauer, winter signing Scott Sinclair and arguably Alan Browne are ready to make the step up. The expectation from what I'd assumed was that we wouldn't replace the players swiftly enough and the rest of the squad demand to leave, with no senior goalkeeper except from Connor Ripley who has been at fault for seven goals in the nine games he's played across pre-season and the main season, and it could well have been seven in seven if not for some suspect finishing from Chorley and Manchester City. Things would fall apart if this happens, as Hemmings refuses to spend money on quality. For the good that people say he is, the reality is that he's a good business owner but a useless football club owner. Did you know we have a SCOUT!? Because I don't think he does!
So yeah, failure to go up might be the trigger for this club's demise. And it wouldn't be the first time under Hemmings we've been in trouble. So yeah, this was more of an anti-Hemmings rant but COVID has actually benefitted us as other teams will have to sell cheap in the summer and we need to take advantage. Thing is, we won't, and as such collapse. Woo. Expected lineup and tactics for the run in:
Alex Neil's Wheel of Tactics (TM) means that I can't pick an expected lineup. We could honestly run anything and it wouldn't surprise me! However, we tend to run a 4-3-3 variant with the actual squad determining the style from there, and Rudd, Bauer, Davies, Pearson, Browne, Barkhuizen and Daniel "golden boy" Johnson usually start. Remaining fixtures:
All winnable games, but no doubt Neil will tactically flip the side and we'll lose one or two from that alone. At a high intensity we could very much win the lot though, however given the rapid flurry of games I suspect this won't be likely. Luton (A), Cardiff (H), Derby (H), Huddersfield (A), Sheffield Wednesday (A), Forest (H), Brentford (A), Birmingham (H), Bristol City (A) Best case scenario:
Well, it has to be promotion! We'd be set for life. Worst case scenario:
We go bust. Prediction
: Do I really have to predict when Alex Neil is our manager? My head says 7th and things go to shit. My heart says 6th and Nugent bags the winner at Wembley. I'd fancy us in the playoffs, a real dark horse with some top players. Social media/other shithousery:
We lost in the final of the FA Cup of Flags. As long as this isn't foreshadowing what's going to happen at the end of the season it's still a decent achievement.
Some of our fans started rimming that Kieran Maguire lad. He's a smart guy, hence why he's a lecturer, but my god does he not add context when he's talking about us. He's got our fanbase convinced we're a stable club. We're really, really not.
Also one of our fansites, From the Finney, appointed a fascist to their writing team. Oops.