This article is part of Football League World’s ‘Rewind’ series, this content strand is where we rewind back to a particular moment at a club, assess the initial reaction from the fans, and then proceed to evaluate and reflect on whether fans were right to react in that way….
For the first time in eight years, Preston North End sacked a manager back in March 2021 when Alex Neil lost his job after almost four years as manager at Deepdale.
Not since Graham Westley’s axing in February 2013 had a PNE boss been dismissed but after a run of just one win in their last nine fixtures, the blame fell on Neil and he parted company with the club.
In stepped his former assistant Frankie McAvoy until the end of the season, and any PNE fans who had fears about him being just like his former boss were soon quelled after his eight games in caretaker charge yielded five victories and just one loss.
Quiz: Are these 22 Preston North End stats real or fake?
In this latest article for FLW Rewind, let’s look at what North End fans were saying back in May when McAvoy’s permanent appointment was confirmed just two days after the conclusion of the 2020-21 season.
— Keith Harrison (@kharrison_68) May 10, 2021
He’s really earned that can’t say no
— Kyle Fleming (@kylefleminggg) May 10, 2021
— Tommo (@tommo_neil) May 10, 2021
The players love him, and the results were Playoff form at least. Keep this backroom team together, please #pnefc
— CrawfordArt (@CrawfordArt1) May 10, 2021
Delighted with this appointment 👍 well done PNE 👏👏👏
— scott duncan (@scottd124) May 10, 2021
Let’s back him
— Big Bobs Hairy Burgers 🍔 (@fletcher19899) May 10, 2021
Congratulations Frankie….I’m really looking forward to next season now!
— Alan Hamilton (@Hammy_1955) May 10, 2021
Quality. Absolutely buzzing
— josh edwards (@joshedpne) May 11, 2021
May as well get the promotion parade organised for next season
— James (@pj895) May 10, 2021
On the strength of the end of season results, McAvoy did deserve his first shot at a head coach role and to step out of the shadow of Neil for once.
There wasn’t much change in terms of backroom staff with Paul Gallagher being added to it on a full-time basis, but the tactics were different with McAvoy favouring a 3-5-2 formation as opposed to Neil’s 4-2-3-1.
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Things didn’t look too promising though after the opening three Championship games of this season though – North End lost all three and a 1-0 away defeat to Huddersfield prompted voicing of discontent from fans directed at both McAvoy and Peter Ridsdale.
Since then though there has been an upturn in form – the last five Championship outings have been two wins and three draws and the Lilywhites have progressed into the last 16 of the Carabao Cup and the football on show is far more attacking than supporters have seen at Deepdale in years.
The confidence in McAvoy right now is very high and there’s definitely something to build on – and the Scot is proving the fans’ initial reaction to his permanent appointment very right.