Gareth Ainsworth has revealed that he’s ‘flattered’ to be linked with the vacant Preston North End job following the departure of Alex Neil at the weekend.
Neil was sacked by the Lilywhites after losing seven of his last 11 games as manager, with his former assistant Frankie McAvoy taking temporary charge until the end of the current campaign.
North End are in 16th place in the Championship and nine points above the relegation zone, and that is a place where Ainsworth currently resides with Wycombe Wanderers who are competing in the second tier of English football for the first time this season.
Their stay looks to be a brief one – the Chairboys are 11 points adrift but they have by far the lowest budget and it was a miraculous achievement for Ainsworth to get them promoted.
But he could see the North End managerial role as a huge step, and it’s a club that is close to him having played for PNE in three separate spells between 1992 and 2002.
Ainsworth was quizzed on being the favourite with the bookies for the job whilst on Sky Sports News last night, and he didn’t exactly deny that there would be no interest in taking up the role if he was approached for it.
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“Two fantastic football clubs, that’s all I can say. I’m flattered as always to be linked with these jobs,” Ainsworth said, per LancsLive.
“Obviously I started my career at Preston, which holds a big piece of my heart.
“But as I’ve always said it’d take something super special for me to vacate Wycombe – where we’ve built this culture with what we are doing so far.
“So yeah, unfortunately there will be no comment from me tonight, but thank you to all the fans concerned at both clubs.
“It’s nice to be wanted.”
If Trevor Hemmings wants to win some of the disillusioned fanbase back, then appointing a former player with a decent managerial record probably would be the smartest choice.
Ainsworth is a popular figure at Deepdale to fans from a certain era, whilst Lincoln City boss Michael Appleton is in the running from a betting perspective and he spent four years as a player at Deepdale, and so is Callum Davidson who is managing up at St. Johnstone.
We won’t know who Alex Neil’s replacement will be for at least a month yet as North End are waiting until their Championship status is secure to make a decision, but it sounded as though Ainsworth would walk to Deepdale in his bare feet to take the job.