With only 1 home defeat this season and that back in August you might be surprised to learn that Preston have just dumped their manager and succeeded in finding a new one in double quick time. With a home record of 3 wins, 4 draws and only that 1 defeat, similar in fact to that of 12th placed Sheff. Utd, you would expect to find them in mid-table but an appalling sequence away from home of 6 defeats in 8 games means that they are down in 21st place in the table. Unfortunately we're not playing them at the Valley and, as Wenger said of playing Charlton back in August 1998, its probably not a good time to play them, especially at Deepdale.
One of the founding members of the Football League, and its first Champions back in 1888 and 1889, Preston are clearly desperate to get back where they believe they belong and after achieving the Play-Offs in 2005 and again in 2006, the disappointment of finishing 7th last year has obviously proved to be too much to cope with. Stuck in 21st spot, 10 points off 6th place, something had to be done.
Out went manager Paul Simpson on 13 November after only 17 months in charge and just one week later Alan Irvine is the new boy. And new he definitely is as this is his first managership job after 5 years learning how to do it as David Moyes' assistant coach at Everton.
So what's going to happen on Saturday? The first forecast on the result has been posted by drinkingduringthegame as a 1-1 draw and at first glance seems to be perhaps an optimistic approach. Usually with a new boss everyone trys that much harder to impress, so we can expect a high work rate from Preston and probably playing with some confidence from a home record that only has that one defeat.
However, the new man in charge is used to Premiership football and will have hopefully little knowledge of the visitors, and experience of life down in the fizzies is always looked upon by Pardew as vital to success. Pards will be hopeful that he's not a quick learner.
Another pointer to a difficult game is the Head-to-Head History. If you looked at our 16 games so far this season, 8 of them have gone to the team with the best record and this weekend we travel to a stadium where we have a scant 4 wins, 6 draws and a huge total of 20 defeats.
But, of course, the history can only be a pointer, and according to Henry Ford, history is more or less bunk anyway as we saw at Southampton recently where our record, before the win, was almost exactly the same as at Preston with only 4 wins, 6 draws and 18 defeats. That didn't stop us winning and Pards must push us on this weekend.
Remember that to achieve our target of 26 wins we need to keep on winning and we can't allow a revitalised Preston to beat us. Easy to say perhaps but with key players Reid and Iwelumo back from exhausting International duty the odds look stacked against a win.
The International Breaks this season have not proved good for the Addicks with a 2-2 draw at Colchester, although after being 2 goals down, and then the 0-2 defeat at Wolves mean we are winless in the first game after our 2 weeks off and that combined with our dreaded TV form doesn't bode well.
So a 1-1 draw does look an inviting conclusion to make given the circumstances and would at least avoid a repetition of the embarrassing QPR result. Expect more forecasts like it as the fans look to avoid defeat although we can surely rely on Pardew to be planning nothing less than a win.