Watch this space for 2008/9 - opening day 9th August - Ipswich v Preston. Last season it was Norwich so why East Anglia in August?
Countdown Week Number: -1 August 2nd, -2 July 26th, -3 July 19th, -4 July 12th, -5 July 5th.
home: W11, D5, L7, F29, A20
away: W4, D6, L13, F21, A36 - 56pts.
Bristol City 3 PNE 0. People are saying it didn't matter and the defence was a try out with Hart and Trotman. So it doesn't matter, no comment needed.
32 points from the last 21 games or a rate of 70 points over a full season which is what Wolves and Crystal Palace got for 6th and 7th places. Personally I don't think they are that good. They got their points through determination in a relegation position. To do that over a season will be difficult so I'd have them not much better than this season unless they cure their scoring drought. They actually scored more goals in the first half of the season. Although if the 7 home defeats can be avoided and a few more away points achieved they will see it right.
A lot of managers are saying that next year we'll ........... I liked the comment from Roy Keane who said he'd been told that if a player doesn't do what you say 2 or 3 times you get rid of him. You pay them to come in and pay them to leave. So he's saying some are on the way out this month. A bit like the bad apples at PNE. The previous 2 PNE managers have been quiet for a while. Shame really.
Leicester were relegated and have never been into the 3rd tier before. It was almost Southampton who went down. Stoke got automatic promotion with a team and staff containing a few ex-PNEers. They'll need to spend as you don't have 1 good season and become Premier league standard, Derby found that.
April did turn into a disappointment after the success of March. With maximum points in April they'd now be 10th and have a very unlikely chance of the play-offs.
A draw with Ipswich at home on Saturday wasn't bad on this seasons form but next year won't be good enough. Neil Mellor scored again, his ninth, and if he keeps up his score rate he'll do well next year. A crowd of just over 14,000 was one of the better ones.
In the LEP Alan Irvine is saying take nothing for granted for next season. I'd agree with that. Although they've pulled well up the table since January it hasn't been consistent or convincing from what I've read. It can be argued that the clubs in the middle are so even that a small improvement will make a big difference but there does appear to be a number of soft spots in the line up. As well as that there are no players that are being chased by other clubs and that is a first for a long time as well as saying something about their quality.
If Blackpool win 1-0 at home to Watford they will have 56 points and -4 goal difference. If PNE lose 1-0 at Bristol they will have 56 points and -4 goal difference. So Blackpool will overtake PNE on alphabetical order or is there a rule other than goal difference such as goals scored. In that case Blackpool will have scored 59 and PNE 50. I think both games will be a draw so it won't happen. Leicester look favourites to go down with their last game against top of the table Stoke who are playing for champions position. Southamptons goal difference is horrific but they have 2 games left, one at WBA, and so they probably need to win at home to Sheffield United who are still in with a play-off hope but not that good.
Wow a last minute goal to get a point at Plymouth today. Started the month looking good at QPR with a 2 goal lead with one minute to go, result 2-2. Then losing to Barnsley at home. So that's 2 points out of 9. With Ipswich and Bristol C to go, chance of at least a point. Ending with 56 points. So April might be a bit of a let down.
Meanwhile, the relegation spot is 6 points away with 2 games to go. Leicester, Sheff W and Southampton look in the mire but can still pass PNE on goal difference. As Sheffield Wed play Leicester something has to give - Sheff W have to win to pass PNE but then Leicester can't pass. So PNE are safe. Thanks given to Blackpool for beating Sheff W today.
Southampton play WBA so they probably won't pass PNE.
Good month, capped off by a 3-1 win against Sheffield United. Still tight in the division - only 8 points from the play-offs and 8 points from relegation.
Neil Mellor is the man in the news after scoring 2 goals yesterday. The manager gave the impression that Neils problem is in his own mind which was a surprise as he's been with Premier league clubs and in contention for a place all season. Lets hope a full 97 minute game and scoring 2 goals gives him the starter. He must know he has a lot of goodwill from what people have written in the LEP.
After starting the month with a defeat at home they then beat Charlton away which I would have said was a banker for a defeat. The month had teams from the top to the bottom and they won 5, drew 1, lost 1. Probably only the unlikely Hull are in better form at the moment. With 2 home games and 3 away to come it is possible to hope for another 8 points making 61 for the season and 12th place. The last game being against currently top of the table, an also unlikely, Bristol City. The top 3 are an unlikely bunch. Hats off to Bristol City, Stoke, Hull, it shows it can be done.
As a footnote Derby were relegated yesterday.
Normally I'm positive but this is another of those games where PNE should have shown that they can pull out of the bottom area but didn't deliver. No goals is a common theme. It is becoming obvious that they are a bottom 6 team so going down depends on whether Sheff Wed / Leicester / Coventry are worse.
Beat Coventry and Stoke and drew with Watford. Unfortunately lost to the bottom club, Colchester and Norwich in the last minute. Lost in the cup in very unluckily in the last minute of injury time. Had some clean sheets though which is a step forward. Quite a few games coming where points should be gained so if they go down its their own fault.
12 games to go 73 points possible.
January ended on a high after beating top of the table West Brom 2-1 and Premier league Derby in the cup 4-1. Unfortunately three players are suspended now including new signing Brown who is doing well. So 6 points in Jan out of an expected 3 or 4 is pretty good. It's a bit ominous when the goalie has a great game against WBA. Hawley scored 3 in the last 2 games as well and they were valuable goals; worth points and cup glory. Neil Mellor hasn't yet shown his value and so my belief in him being the next Alex Dawson is weakening. Still not out of the woods but clinging on and some optimism isn't out of place.
January bought Brown from Norwich and Chaplaw from WBA. Also agreed terms on a defender from Aberdeen, Hart. The team seem to be playing better and beat Watford who are near the top. Sheff Wed was a poor result gifting goals. Stoke lost 3-1 with another gifted goal didn't expect much although perhaps 2-1 or a draw. We'll allow a loss of points against WBA but after that lost points are serious business. After WBA there is no team that PNE should be afraid of, except Charlton. So it's in their hands.
December was a roller coaster month with a gradual improvement then two away wins to be followed by two relatively easy home games that would see PNE rising up the league. Unfortunately they lost the two home games and are still in the relegation place although not out of touch with those above.
PNE 1 Cardiff 2.
PNE 0 Scunthorpe 1.
Southampton 0 PNE 1
Burnley 2 PNE 3.
PNE 0 Blackpool 1
PNE 3 Hull 0.
So 9 points out of 18. If they carry on like that they will end up with 54 points which is just about good enough to survive. Last season the team above relegation, Hull, had 49 points. So say they need 50 points or 26 more points. That's win 8, draw 2 out of;
(Bold is home game) Jan - Sheff W, Watford, Stoke, WBA. Feb - Norwich, Coventry, Colchester, Stoke, Watford. March - Crystal P, Leicester, Charlton, Wolves, Bpool, Burnley, Sheff U. April - QPR, Barnsley, Plymouth, Ipswich. May- Bristol.
Jan 3 points, Feb 9pts, Mar 9pts, April 6 pts, May 1pt = 28 pts. Phew they just escaped relegation. I'm off out to the pub for a pint.
Team playing against Cardiff on 28th Dec:
Lonergan, Jones, St Ledger, Chilvers, Hill, Sedgwick, McKenna, Davidson, Whaley, Gallagher, Mellor.
Subs: C Neal, L Neal, Carter, Hawley, Agyemang.
The team in play-offs against Leeds in 2006 was;
Nash, Mears, Davis, Alexander, Mawene, Ormerod (Whaley 10), O'Neil, McKenna, Stewart (Agyemang 45), Nugent, Dichio.
Subs Not Used: Ward, Sedgwick, Wilson.
A lot of the letters in the Evening Post blame the chairman, the board, the players and the backroom staff. The manager is new so he isn't yet being blamed too much.
Twelve months after being top, PNE are bottom and 15 pts off the play-off positions. Losing to Blackpool after beating Hull was a blow. Two away matches - Burnley and Southampton to come. Then Scunthorpe and Cardiff at home. So is it to be 12 points more this year.
Neil Mellor hasn't found hope in the new manager so maybe my faith is mis-placed. PNE have scored 19 goals and 8 were in 2 games. So thats 11 goals in 19 matches. No Nugent, no goals.
The worst month although there are signs of improvement. Norwich lost after leading at Stoke so they are bottom. Richard Cresswell, ex-PNE, scored a late goal and has scored regularly at Stoke.
New manager says present spell of 2 games a week is hampering changes to tactics. PNE have 6 strikers but none of them are scoring. At Wolves today they had most of the play and were doing quite well - from reports, lost 1-0. It is possible they are becoming more-solid and if the new manager can find a good scoring combination there will be some recovery. 13 points below the play-offs - is that impossible? It's a tight division.
Prestons ex-manager Billy Davies and the crew he took from Preston have all been terminated by Derby. I thought he was a great manager at Preston and would probably have got PNE promoted with an over-performing team like he did with Derby.
PNE lost their first game 0-2 with the new manager. Charlton scoring in the 46th and 91st minutes. Saw the first half on TV and they only showed a few sparks of decent play. Looked a bit dis-jointed and Charlton looked spritely. Apparantly PNE played better in the second half. Crystal Palace tomorrow, early days yet.
Alan Irvine has been appointed and Derek Shaw stated that he was always the top choice. Time will tell. It isn't easy to judge but he should have a good network of senior contacts and top level experience after his time in the Premier League. It's obvious that the players need a hard man so we'll watch that side as well. The downside being that he's been living as a backroom man and stepping into the limelight isn't easy.
Several managers have been debated. Burnley are also looking for a new man and Wigan.
For the record the top names seem to have been; Paul Jewell, Steve Cotterill, Mike Newell, Paul Ince, Martin Allen. Alan Irvine at Everton seems to be a name coming up from the outside. Paul Jewell looks too big for PNE and he is linked with others. Can't say I'd go running out into the street cheering for any of those names. Paul Jewell would be my choice and rest are all a bit of a gamble. Last year Steve Cotterill beat Paul Simpson to manager of the month while he was at Burnley and PNE were top of the division. Burnley aren't doing that badly compared to PNE this season. It's not easy, Moyes and Davies were unknowns so we look to Derek Shaw for another good call.
It looked on the cards and now it is out. Shame as it would have been great to find another prospect. Maybe he needs more experience but it does seem that even after he left remarks reported gave ammunition to his detractors. Did he really say 'the fans got me sacked'. Find it hard to believe as results are what get you sacked.
This is the second mid-month report which only happens for especially bad or good events.
Today a bad result where it is reported the game was given away with little opposition. The roller coaster continues and the cards are stacking up against Paul Simpson. After the game the club announced there is a board meeting next week at which recent results will be discussed. The manager said he will analyse what is going wrong and some players have no hunger. He also said he's a nice guy and his door is always open for them to discuss with him.
I thought these remarks are telling. The manager should drive their hunger, a nice guy will be mocked by many players. Being a manager is about knowledge and man-motivation. In sport there is no-where to hide and results are what counts. Paul has a long contract so the club will need to consider that as well. There is a gap in for international matches so this is a good time to bring in someone new, if there is someone lined up. Paul won't fall on his sword and he is a decent honest guy. So it's not a nice decision - but it is looking like he's on the end of the branch and it's falling.
October was a bit of an improvement in that they won 2, drew 2, lost 1 and rose 4 places in the table. The game yesterday against Plymouth was an almost must win, and they did. It gives the manager room. October had a good start with a win 5-0 over Southampton which seemed like a turning point, but if it was it is a slow turn, but that's possible. So was this a ratcheting up of the turning circle or just space for a breather. The next month has a few games where points will be expected. It wouldn't be unreasonable to expect 10 points from the 5 games (3 away) to get them round mid-table. The 7 games in December include a couple of local derbies and January looks tough so they need to make the most of November. So it looks like mid-table by year end and then there is always room for a surge.
Special report after a depressing result. Waiting for the chairman to give the manager a vote of confidence which would mean goodbye. The clock is ticking down for Mr Simpson but there is still time for him to beat the clock and I hope he does. I did an analysis of their results in the second half of last season and concluded that teams frequently continue as they left off and it would result in them being 18th this season. Looks like nothing has changed although 18th might be good. They need someone who can play like Neil Mellor is cracked up to be, but the manager knows best.
Two points in their last 2 games. Most reports say they are playing well but aren't scoring. They're 7 points from a play-off place and play Southampton at Deepdale on Tuesday. The fans seem to be coming round after their early uprising, but it might be a lull before a storm.
Derek Shaw the chairman announces he will not seek re-election to the board in November. Says he's getting too much stick. It has often been reported that the fans moan a lot but he's done a good job. These last seasons have been the best period in 40yrs. That Preston are a giant waiting to be awoken has seemed unlikely by the continued small gates. So a sensible financial position has been taken while expanding the ground and youth development facility.
Always wondered how they had been so successful in finding players especially strikers and if they could keep it up - Macken, Fuller, Nugent. Did think Neil Mellor would be the right stuff.
Will Mr Shaw change his mind and at least stay on the board or is there someone out there who won't lead them into the Leeds wilderness.
Paul Simpson is to ask the board to buy out the contracts of the 4 bad apples that no-one wants to buy. I've never heard anything like this before, you would expect this sort of thing to be handled quietly. The risk being is it the manager who is the bad apple or is he a rising star who needs this help. How much will this cost and why should players be paid for being a problem.
Played 3, one point. Sounds bad but most reports say they aren't playing badly but are unable to score. Today they let in 3 from 2 free-kicks and a penalty which doesn't sound good for the defence either.
Paul Simpson is saying its the lowest he's felt. Don't forget ''When you walk through a storm.....'. This is a test of character and ability, I would think he's got until November to get to mid-table.
Also it was reported there was a mass walk out and that those who were left booed the team off. This is not the sort of help the team needs. I wonder what the new signings think of the audience, can't say supporters.
There are 35 games to go so if there is going to be one bad period this isn't a bad time to have it. A visit to top team Coventry next week is a game without expectation so maybe there is expectation.
Purchases: Billy Jones from Crewe, Karl Hawley from Carlisle, Kevin Nicholls from Leeds, Darren Carter from West Brom.
Sales: Nugent, Ricketts. Nash.
Goalkeepers: Dylan Adams, Andrew Murphy, Wayne Henderson, Andy Lonergan.
Defenders: Matt Hill, Youl Mawene, Billy Jones, SeanSt Ledger, Graham Alexander, Callum Davidson, Liam Chilvers.
Midfielders: Lewis Neal, Jason Jarrett, Paul McKenna, Simon Whaley, Kevin Nicholls, Danny Pugh, KarlHawley, Adam Nowland, Chris Sedgwick.
Strikers: Patrick Agyemang, Chris McGrail, Brett Ormerod, Neil Mellor.
Utility: Chris Neal.
North End are 26/1 to get automatic promotion. This is 10th position. Charlton are 8/1 favourites. There are 7 teams quite closely rated then a gap to Sheff Wed, Crystal Palace and PNE. So its up to PNE to break into that upper group.
Last season PNE were 17/1 and 8th with Birmingham favourites. So it wasn't far out.
Worries about a striker are the most expressed concern. I've had great hopes of Neil Mellor as he reminds me of Alex Dawson with his big build. I saw one shot against Man City in the cup on TV that looked cannon-like but it has got to 'do or die' time in my opinion.
The defence has been strengthened and lets hope that fortress Deepdale can be maintained.
Not much point making a forecast but no Nugent and new midlfielders. Should be OK and might once again surprise me and do really well.
10th August 2007 - Preston v Norwich.