PNE boss raring to go again

Deepdale boss Simon Grayson
Deepdale boss Simon Grayson

Simon Grayson says next week’s release of the fixture list will whet the appetite of Preston North End’s fans and players for their return to the Championship.

After four years in League One, the Lilywhites can look forward to different opposition and grounds.

PNE boss Grayson is under no illusions about the strength of English football’s second tier, 17 of the clubs having been in the Premier League at some stage.

Nine of them will have the benefit of parachute money behind them, having been relegated from the top flight in recent seasons.

Grayson told the Evening Post: “The fixture list coming out is always an exciting time, it really focuses the mind on the season ahead.

“We are going into a tough division but that is what we worked so hard to achieve over the last couple of seasons.

“You look through the league and there are some really big clubs in there.

“It is a challenge which is exciting, not daunting, we will embrace that and look forward to it over the next few weeks.

“The players come back for pre-season training on July 2 and we will work very hard to prepare for the start of the new season in August.

“These are exciting times for Preston – we want to push on and establish ourselves.

“We’re going to enjoy it, we’re going to head on and see where it takes us.”

Grayson, who set off today on his charity bike ride from London to Amsterdam in aid of Prostate Cancer UK, has stayed busy since the end of the season.

He worked on shaping the squad during his recent holiday and that work will continue over the coming weeks.

Grayson is happy with the business done to date, Monday’s signing of Jermaine Beckford on a permanent deal being key to his plans.

He is also pleased to have got Chris Humphrey, John Welsh, Paul Huntington and skipper Tom Clarke signed up on extended contracts.

But he did lose the services of Scott Laird yesterday, the popular left-back becoming the third PNE player to join Scunthorpe this summer.

Laird was offered a two-year deal by Preston but chose Scunny’s three-year contract, joining Jack King and Scott Wiseman at Glanford Park.

As well as wanting to bring back Paul Gallagher and Sam Johnstone after their loan spells, Grayson is looking to recruit in the transfer market.

On the shopping list are a right-back, left-back, striker and a left-winger.

Following the departure of Thorsten Stuckmann to Doncaster, a back-up keeper could be on the list too.

Provided Johnstone re-joins on a season-long loan from Manchester United, cover will be needed for him.

Jamie Jones remains at the club but did have two loan spells away from Deepdale last term after falling out of favour.

“There will be probably be three or four new players coming in,” said Grayson.

“You have to keep trying to improve and we want good competition for places.

“We’ve let a few others go from last season, that is part and parcel of football, whatever division you are in.”