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Red is go for Preston

I HAD to laugh when I saw what happened in the Port Vale v Preston game. Mind you, I don’t imagine it was very funny for Micky Adams.

After a bout of handbags between Joe Garner and Anthony Griffiths, the ref pulled out his red card – and sent off Preston’s Neil Kilkenny! He’d meant to send Garner packing but got the two players mixed up.

Lo and behold, Garner then went and scored both goals for Preston in a 2-0 win. I thought Micky took it incredibly well – if I’d been in his shoes, it would have cost me a bit of money!

I said a few weeks ago that I didn’t think it would be long before Preston got up among the challengers in League One.

Now they’re unbeaten in eight and up to third in table. That should ensure a place in the play-offs at the very least.

Simon Grayson is an experienced manager now, someone who has taken three teams up from League One – Blackpool, Leeds and Huddersfield. He knows what he’s doing at that level.

And I think the signing of Kevin Davies was a masterstroke. He’s a fantastic footballer and, even at 36, still Premier League class in my eyes.

He holds it up better than pretty much anyone, brings everyone into play. If he can stay fit I think they could have a tilt at automatic.

I WOULDN’T LAST IN TODAY’S SACK RACE

THREE more week managers have been sacked this week and it just goes to show how quickly you have to bring success these days.

Down in Crawley, Richie Barker got the shove after 14 months. Peter Whittingham lasted a year at Portsmouth. And at Bristol City, Sean O’Driscoll didn’t even manage that.

When results don’t go as expected, it’s always the manager who carries the can. There is nothing you can do about it, which is why I always tell managers to enjoy the good times.

I feel very lucky to have had seven promotions. And I look back at every one with great pride. I built good sides, got to know some great characters. And over the years I got to know what worked and what didn’t.

Would I have had all those promotions if I started managing today? No. If I’d been a 35-40 year-old manager starting out in the last couple of years, I’d have been lucky to get one.

Scrutiny

It’s just a different world now. Media is 24/7. Social networking and messageboards are everywhere. It’s made the scrutiny and the pressure a hundred times worse.

Most chairman – especially those from overseas – are well into social networking. A lot of them use twitter to discuss things. Fans talk to them directly.

And unfortunately, everybody on twitter and everybody who rings the Saturday night phone-ins thinks they’re a football expert.

When I started out, I only answered to the chairman. Now, you answer to thousands of armchair pundits. It is tough.

As for Bristol City, it’s always been a massive club, with a great fanbase and a long history. When you saw their fixture against Sheffield United last week, it could easily have been a top-of-the-Championship game under different circumstances.

I’ve had plenty of difficult games at Ashton Gate – for opposing managers it’s a bloody long walk from the middle of that stand all the way round to the dugouts!

Tempting

But I’m a great believer that clubs go in cycles. Bristol City had a great rise under Gary Johnson. Now they’re coming down the other side. But I’m sure it won’t be long before the good times return.

Richie Barker leaving Crawley was a bit of a shock, but they’ve lost seven games on the spin so I suppose it shouldn’t be these days.

I’d imagine Richie will be straight in for the Portsmouth job. He’s got great contacts with the chief executive there, Mark Catlin. They worked together at Bury and had a good relationship by all accounts.

They know how each other work, trust each other. I’d imagine that would be very tempting for both of them.
Like I’ve said before, it’s a great club for someone to get their hands on.

I know they haven’t got a lot of money. But when you can rely on 15,000 people to turn up at home games in the bottom division, you know you’ve got great potential.

The finances are sound. After so many years of turmoil, they’re running on an even keel. It’s a lucky man who gets that job.

DREAM STILL ON, WIGAN

WHAT a bittersweet result for Wigan in the Europa League. Beaten 2-1 at home by Zulte Waregem, it’s looking a big ask to qualify for the knockout stages.

They’ve got to win in Maribor and hope Waregem lose at home to Kazan. On the face of it, going out of Europe wouldn’t be such a bad thing for Owen Coyle.

There’s no question Wigan want promotion back to the Premier League and at the minute they’re struggling for form. A few less games wouldn’t hurt them at all.

But I don’t think Owen and his chairman Dave Whelan will look at it like that. For Dave, taking his hometown club into Europe was the culmination of a life’s work.

He knows that a club like Wigan could wait 100 years before they play on the continent again, just as Owen knows he might never manage there again.

That’s why come the final game in Maribor, they’ll be going hell for leather to qualify – and I hope they manage it.

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