Preston North End goalkeeping coach Alan Kelly believes Simon Grayson’s experience could be the key to ending North End’s play-off curse at the ninth attempt.
Grayson has managed to achieve promotion with each of his three previous clubs in League One during his first full season in charge. He secured automatic promotion with Leeds in 2010 while he won promotion via the play-offs with both Blackpool and Huddersfield in 2007 and 2012 respectively.
Speaking about the season and the work Grayson has done since replacing Graham Westley at Deepdale last February Kelly said: “We have come a long way in the 15 months since Simon took charge.
“As disappointed as we are to not achieve automatic promotion, I think reaching the play-offs with a total of 85 points is something that we would have all taken as a target at the beginning of pre-season last June”
He added: “Ultimately it’s about winning because we want to be in the Championship next season and with the mangers experience, it certainly gives us a great chance.”
An experienced management team is not the only thing Preston have going for them.
The defence is an area of the squad which has been strong this season, a department the former Republic of Ireland international works closely with, and although PNE have kept 20 clean sheets this season in all competitions Kelly is certain that it’s a team effort which has got them into the play-offs.
“It’s the team that gets you promotion, clean sheets and goals have been a key strength of ours over these last 46 league games and will be vital going into the play-offs.” He said ahead of Preston’s two-legged tie with Rotherham United who travel to Deepdale tomorrow before North End visit the New York Stadium on Thursday evening with PNE having sold out their 1,200 ticket allocation in just four hours.
There has been a feel-good feeling around Deepdale since the arrival of Grayson and Kelly hopes to see the fans celebrating promotion with the team just as he did when Preston won promotion from the old fourth division back in 1987.
“To win promotion as I did with PNE would be magnificent. I remember standing on the steps of the Harris Museum overlooking the Flag Market with a sea of PNE supporters celebrating.
“It is an experience I would like to enjoy again.”