Preston’s hunt for a new manager has now begun, having parted ways with Alex Neil on Sunday afternoon.
Neil’s time with North End came to an end after nearly four years in the Deepdale hot seat, and Peter Ridsdale must now get this next appointment right.
We’ve reported this week that Preston are likely to be going down the ‘head coach’ route rather than a traditional manager, with a new setup coming this summer.
James Beet will play a role in that; Preston’s new analyst has arrived from Barnsley, and applying some of their principles to North End could provide the club with the spark it needs.
One of those may be to look to a foreign manager. Barnsley have gone with the likes of Daniel Stendel, Gerhardt Struber and now Valerian Ismael, and have been reaping the rewards.
They stayed up against the odds last season and are now pushing for the playoffs, so if Preston want some inspiration when it comes to a foreign manager, Beet can bring that.
Add in that David Wagner, Daniel Farke and Thomas Frank have also enjoyed Championship success in recent times, and the argument for a first-ever foreign Preston manager is stronger than ever before.
If there’s one name we like, it’s Tim Walter, a former Bayern Munich coach who currently finds himself out of a job.
Walter, 45, impressed in charge of Bayern Munich II, earning a move to Holstein Kiel in 2018, which is where his tactical approach really started turning heads.
Walter set up predominantly in a 4-4-2 diamond, with his forwards splitting out into wide areas to free up space for the number 10 behind them.
What was truly incredible to watch was the way his sides built play from the back. There was real emphasis placed on the goalkeeper passing from the back, usually to one of the centre backs.
Then, his other centre back would move into midfield – often regarded as an attacking centre back – to offer up different passing angles and beat man-to-man schemes, with his midfield anchor man or one of his midfielders dropping in and rotating with the centre back.
Walter’s approach was innovative and daring, and some may wonder if that kind of style is really suited to the Championship, but he certainly proved it can work in Germany.
Walter won 40% of his games at Kiel, scoring 65 goals in just 37 games. For context, in 38 games this season, Preston have scored just 39 just goals.
You can also draw comparisons between Preston and Kiel; previously a dominant side in the northern region of their country, Kiel end up sliding down the leagues and haven’t been back in the top flight for a long, long time. In fact, they haven’t even played in the flight since it became the Bundesliga – sound familiar?
Kiel are a mid-table side that have flirted with promotion, but don’t have the biggest budget, yet Walter had them challenging in the top six – which is ultimately what North End are now seeking.
Stuttgart poached Walter in 2019, and he won 11 of his 20 games in charge, again firing plenty of goals, but he lasted just seven months in the job before leaving.
Internal conflict and some shaky results played a part in that, but Walter certainly laid a foundation for Stuttgart to go and get promoted to the Bundesliga, with talented youngsters like Silas Wamangituka and Nicolas Gonzalez developing under his stewardship.
Walter has been out of the game for more than a year now, and if Preston want to go down Barnsley’s route, this would be our pick.
Walter’s exciting brand of football and experience of coaching at a massive club like Bayern Munich is very appealing, whilst he has experience working as a head coach.
It’s bold, and maybe Walter wouldn’t want a move to England, or not fancy Preston for that matter.
But if Preston want to think outside the box and try something truly revolutionary, Walter’s approach could make him North End’s very own Wagner, Farke, Frank or Ismael.