Preston parted ways with Alex Neil on Sunday afternoon, bringing an end to almost four years in the Deepdale hot seat.
Three defeats in a row without a goal proved to be the end for Neil, and North End will begin the hunt for a replacement for the summer.
What’s interesting is that we believe Preston aren’t looking for a ‘manager’, so to speak, but instead a head coach – as indicated with Frankie McAvoy becoming ‘interim head coach’ following Neil’s exit.
We wrote yesterday that fans should ignore links to the likes of Tony Pulis and Neil Lennon, but what if Preston spring something of a surprise and go with a first-time manager?
North End have done it in the past; David Moyes was a first-time manager whilst Alan Irvine had been an impressive coach before turning his hand to management for his first job with Preston.
Going for a coach to step into the role would make some sense, and here are some candidates with no real managerial experience…
Still only 35, Davies has enjoyed a fine coaching career to date. He has been with Brendan Rodgers for many years, working with him at Swansea City, Liverpool, Celtic and now Leicester City, whilst he has even had prior spells with Reading.
Davies is Rodgers’ most trusted lieutenant and has not only earned praise for his work on the training ground, but also as an analyst. He has learned plenty from Rodgers, and that style of play should be appealing to the Preston board.
Davies will surely fancy a managerial job himself one day, and North End would be wise to see if he fancies it this summer, even if the Foxes are heading for Champions League football.
Carsley may be something of a cheat answer for this category; he had brief stint as Brentford caretaker boss in 2015 and at Birmingham in 2017, but we’re not really counting them.
The 47-year-old has worked in superb development structures at Brentford and Manchester City, whilst he is now working as England Under-20 boss.
Having had a taste of Championship management with Brentford and Birmingham, Carsley would surely fancy a full-time managerial job in the near future, and his time working under David Moyes at Preston would be appealing.
Swansea have thrived with an England youth coach in Steve Cooper; who is to say that Carsley couldn’t do the same for North End?
Beale falls into a similar category as Davies, in the sense that he will want a managerial job one day, but this summer could be tough given that his club – Rangers, in this case – are heading for the Champions League.
Known as an outstanding coach who has been a huge factor in Steven Gerrard’s success at Rangers, Beale has a diverse coaching history that has seen him play a key role at Chelsea, Liverpool and even Sao Paulo.
Preston may struggle to tempt Beale, but it’s worth a shot if North End are keen to go down the head coach route, with Beale having seen the huge progress Gerrard has made since going into management himself in 2018.
A real bold shout, Maresca may have bigger ideas in mind with Celtic believed to be keen, but this is very much an idea of… well, if you don’t ask, you don’t get!
Maresca was a Serie A regular in his playing days, but is really emerging as a top coach having worked at Sevilla, West Ham United and now with Manchester City’s Elite Development Squad.
The 41-year-old has learned his trade under Manuel Pellegrini and Pep Guardiola, two of the top coaches in Europe over recent years, and he is excelling this season.
Maresca’s City kids are top of the Premier League 2 Division One table, racking up 41 points from 19 games whilst having a goal difference of +36, demolishing teams all season.
Yes, he’s working with immensely talented players, but he is developing those kids brilliantly with a great style – and whilst Preston may not be the glamorous job he could get, he would have perfect local links to City and a chance to really stamp his authority on the club.
Here we go; we couldn’t do this without mentioning Gallagher.
It feels clear that Preston are grooming Gallagher to become at the very least a key part of the coaching setup for years to come.
The 36-year-old had become an important part of Neil’s setup having started to take a back seat from playing duties this season.
If Preston wanted to really fast-track Gallagher into the role, this could be a time to do it. It would be a staggering risk, but Gallagher certainly understands the club and its fans, so he could be a long – very long – shot for the job.