The Thursday Preview: Preston North End Vs Derby County
David Unsworth always had the air of an on pitch leader throughout his playing career even if the knees were creaking a bit by the time he turned out for Neil Warnock’s Sheffield United. That he’s been handed responsibility to assuage Preston North End’s current, desperate plight on a temporary basis is therefore logical but from this vantage point, it’s unlikely the ex-Evertonian will be given permanent stewardship.
For Unsworth is associated with a Darren Ferguson regime that has been roundly pilloried on the blogosphere over the past 24 hours.
Fergie II has been accused of being too gung-ho in his time at Deepdale. Reported attempts to recreate the sweeping football of his lower league flat track bullies Peterborough have foundered badly and North End now lie five points adrift of safety.
Too many raw Man United youngsters have been blooded, centre half candidates Wayne Brown, Billy Jones and the distracted Sean St. Ledger have shipped like the Mary Rose, and the midfield of Danny Pugh, Darel Russell and Michael Tonge that took to the action in Fergie’s final, definitive moment of doom against Middlesbrough almost defines the adjective “flimsy”.
Worse, eye catching summer signing Paul Hayes, nominated in a Two Unfortunates annual award category last Summer, was mystifyingly shipped off to Barnsley on loan despite scoring the winner against Portsmouth early on and putting local rivals Blackburn to the sword in pre-season. Only 19 year old Adam Barton has given the Lancashire fans reason for cheer.
Sam Allardyce has ruled himself out of the running despite being put forward by the self-styled ‘Mr. Preston’, Mark Lawrenson; Iain Dowie, Hristo Stoichkov, Carlton Palmer, Phil Brown, Gary Megson and Kevin Blackwell have not. But a cannier choice might be Accrington Stanley’s John Coleman or ex-PNE hero Graham Alexander. Prising the latter away from Burnley would be tough though – they need a new boss too of course.
Derby County fans will just want to crawl under a rock . The thunder that Nottingham Forest have been threatening broke at exactly the wrong moment for them yesterday. Yet, for all the evening’s apocalyptic feel, Nigel Clough’s public rounding on Paul Green and Dean Leacock was extraordinary. “You’ve either got it or you go back to League Two or Poland or wherever you’re from. We can’t afford to have nights like this.” he wailed, with some disregard for relations within the European Union.
It may be the first sign of a willingness to be as controversial as his old man of course – “you are a bloody disgrace etc.”, but a fifth defeat in a row has rocked a club that sat pretty in the play offs in November. I’ll take Preston to win a nerve-strewn encounter 2-1.