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Would the real PNE please stand up - Interview
Thursday, 30th Nov 2023 23:41 by Clive Whittingham

Preston have lost twice already this week having won twice the week before, which is very in keeping with a season in which they've already won six in a row and gone without victory for seven games - Josh McLoughlin tries to make sense of the Championship's team of extremes.

How would you assess Preston’s start to the season?

Much better than I think anyone expected. Although we did quite a bit of transfer business in the summer, some players were new to the Championship and even the country but we got off to a brilliant start. It's great to be in fifth place at the moment, and mixing it with the teams who have come down from the Premier League. Let's see how long we can stay in the top six and then we can reassess in January. One thing’s for sure there is great togetherness in the squad, and they all play for each other and battle to the end of the game

PNE in the league so far…
Bristol City 1-1 Preston Bell 47 – Keane 86
Preston 2-1 Sunderland Keane 25, Frokjaer 59 – Clarke pen 31
Sheff Wed 0-1 Preston Lindsay 49
Preston 2-1 Swansea Hughes 67, Holmes 79 – Ashby 33
Stoke 0-2 Preston Keane pen 51, 57
Preston 2-1 Plymouth Holmes 1, Millar 25 – Hardie 61
Preston 2-1 Birmingham Bielik og 51, Osmajic 67 – Stansfield 46
Rotherham 1-1 Preston Hugill 35 – Lindsay 45
Preston 0-4 West Brom Furlong 4, Mowatt 29, Phillips 62, Bartley 87
Leicester 3-0 Preston Dewsbury-Hall 60, 90, Iheanacho 76
Ipswich 4-2 Preston Chaplin 18, Williams 35, Broadhead 45, Jackson 78 – Frokjaer 27, Whiteman 52
Preston 1-1 Millwall Frokjaer 3 – Flemming 30
Preston 2-2 Southampton Osmajic 52, Potts 55 – Walker-Peters 33, Evans og 90
Hull 1-0 Preston Philogene-Bidace 68
Preston 3-2 Coventry Holmes 38, Browne pen 41, Osmajic 78 – Wright 33, 82
Blackburn 1-2 Preston Szmodics 49 – Browne 35, Lindsay 90
Preston 1-2 Cardiff Osmajic 48 - Grant 90, Ugbo 90
Middlesbrough 4-0 Preston Jones 16, 37, Berg 26, Bangura 90

Not a lot of love for PNE in any of the season previews I read (or wrote) but you’ve gone off at a decent pace and are right in the play-off picture – what’s caused this unexpected uptick?

Our defence and Freddie Woodman were solid at the start of the season. Of the eight games we have won this season, only one of them has been by more than one goal. Momentum has built, the fans have got right behind the team and a lot of those wins could easily have gone the other way, but I suppose we got a bit of luck along the way too.

You’ve done one long winning run of six games, and then had a winless sequence of seven, and now won the last two – so which one is the real PNE do you think?

Somewhere in between the two. The winning run was a surprise, and it always felt like a poor run of form would be round the corner. Having said that the winless sequence included away games at Leicester City, Ipswich Town and we also played Southampton and would have won if it wasn't for an injury time equaliser.

Strengths and weaknesses of Ryan Lowe now he’s been in post for a while?

He has got better with the press. He was a bit overconfident when he first arrived, but in his defence he had only ever experienced success at Bury and Plymouth Argyle. His promises and expectations are a lot more measured now. His signings have been impressive this summer, when he finally got a chance to put a proper stamp on the squad. He's been savvy in the loan market as well, and his in game management with substitutions and tactical changes has improved. A weakness could be his stubbornness with the same formation but having said that he has changed that in recent weeks. Hard to have too many complaints this season.

Any talk of January business? What was done in the summer and what needs doing next month?

Not much transfer talk yet, and I don't think we are in dire need of anything. We are still awaiting the return of Emil Riis after a year-long injury which will be a huge boost. In the summer we brought in Mads Frokjaer from Denmark who is a skilful midfielder who has shown his worth already. Milutin Osmajic became our record signing when he joined from Cadiz, and is improving game by game. The striker has three goals to his name and all three have won us points. Liam Millar is on loan from Basel and is a pacey winger we have needed for years. The biggest surprise is Duane Holmes who didn't excite many when he joined from Huddersfield Town, but he has been a revelation. He's scored some key goals for us, and goes on some great driving runs. One of the first names on the teamsheet for us now.

Ins >>> Milutin Osmajic, 24, CF, Cadiz, £2m >>> Mads Frokjaer-Jensen, 23, AM, Odense, £1m >>> Jack Whatmough, 26, CB, Wigan, Free >>> Duane Holmes, 28, AM, Huddersfield, Undisclosed >>> Will Keane, 30, CF, Wigan, Undisclosed >>> Layton Stewart, 20, CF, Liverpool, Undisclosed >>> Calvin Ramsay, 19, RB, Liverpool, Loan >>> Liam Miller, 23, LW, Basel, Loan

Outs >>> Bambo Diaby, 25, CB, Sheff Wed, Undisclosed >>> Daniel Johnson, 30, CM, Stoke, Free >>> Josh Onomah, 26, CM, Released >>> Matthew Olosunde, 25, RB, Released >>> Mikey O’Neill, 19, CF, Southport, Loan >>> James Pradic, 18, GK, Bamber Bridge, Loan >>> Lewis Leigh, 19, CM, Bromley, Loan >>> Kit Nelson, 18, AM, Workington, Loan >>> Finlay Cross-Adair, 18, CF, Anan Athletic, Loan

Strong points and weak links in the team?

We have strength in depth now, particularly in the midfield. Alan Browne, Ben Whiteman, Ali McCann, Ryan Ledson, Mads Frokjaer and Duane Holmes can all play through the middle, and are all worthy of starting. We've also got some decent strikers to choose from. Emil Riis soon, Will Keane, Milutin Osmajic and Ched Evans.

Weak links perhaps in the wing back positions - Liam Millar and Brad Potts aside. Robbie Brady has come in for some criticism from the fans and back up right-wing back Calvin Ramsay hasn't been available since joining on loan from Liverpool in the summer.

Revised expectations for the season – can you keep this up? What counts as a successful season from here?

I think we can beat most teams on our day in this league, but we can also be very inconsistent. It's tough to predict, there are much stronger squads in this division so I would be surprised if we were still in the top six come the last few months of the season, but who knows?

Most predictions at the start of the season probably had us around 18th, and I would say most would have been happy with a top half finish. Having flirted with the top now, you want to stay there as long as you can. I don't expect us to finish in the play-offs but that has to be the aim now, but the fans wouldn't hold a grudge if we didn't make it.

Links >>> Official Website >>> Lancashire Telegraph — Local Press >>> From The Finney — Blog >>> Deepdale Digest — Blog >>> PNE Online — Forum

The Twitter @loftforwords, @Josh_McLoughlin

Pictures — Action Images

Ian Randall Photography

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francisbowles added 08:53 - Dec 1
Thank you Josh and Clive. Seems that PNE fans have reasonable expectations of your good start. How unlike most football fans!

Cayden added 15:17 - Dec 8
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