Preston North End will be looking for a new manager for the first time in nearly four years this summer following last weekend’s departure of Alex Neil.
The axe fell on the Scotsman following a run of seven defeats in the last 11 league games, which had seen North End fall to within nine points of the relegation zone.
North End have made a temporary appointment until the end of the season, with Neil’s former assistant Frankie McAvoy taking the reins, with PNE’s advisor Peter Ridsdale stating that the 53-year-old will get the chance to win the role full-time if he impresses.
But there has been several reports, comments and movements in the betting markets that have suggested that it will be an outside appointment whenever the club decide they want to name the new manager, with Gareth Ainsworth being one of those fancies.
Ainsworth guided Wycombe Wanderers to an unlikely promotion to the Championship last season, and whilst they’ll probably head straight back down to League One, the 47-year-old has impressed some for a few of the results that the Chairboys have managed to pick up.
And North End is a club that Ainsworth holds very close to his heart, having had three separate spells there as a player and when quizzed on Sky Sports this week about being at the head of the betting markets, Ainsworth couldn’t say much other than ‘no comment‘.
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But his delight was evident and it looked like from the smile on his face that he’d walk to Deepdale for the job if he could, saying that both Wycombe and North End were fantastic clubs.
Ainsworth though was replaced at the head of the market in the last few days by Nicky Butt, who left his role as head of first-team development at Manchester United to seek a ‘new challenge’.
Many have seemingly put two and two together to make Butt the new favourite for the North End job, but the former midfielder being a clear favourite would not make much sense considering the club will be making an appointment at the end of the season.
According to the Lancashire Evening Post, North End have had over 60 applications and ‘expressions of interest’ in regards to the role this week, proving that it is a very sought-after position – no doubt due to the security it provides as the club have only had two managers in the last eight years.
And as per FootballLeagueWorld sources, Peter Ridsdale’s past links to Leeds United have seen him consider both Robbie Fowler and Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink for the job, with the former strikers managing at East Bengal and Burton Albion respectively.
Whilst it’s not a cast-iron certainty that North End will definitely wait until the post-season to make an appointment, it seems likely that McAvoy will get his chance to put his claim forward for the last eight games of the season – and North End need some points on the board to secure safety.