The Alan Irvine era was one of ups and, by the end, plenty of downs too.

Irvine arrived at Preston in 2007, under tricky circumstances. North End had sacked Paul Simpson after a dismal start to the season, with Irvine charged with the task of keeping North End afloat.

What made it even tougher was that Irvine was entering his first managerial job. Aged 49, Irvine finally took the step from coaching into management, leaving his role alongside David Moyes at Everton for the move to Deepdale.

As far as first jobs go, this was one of the toughest. He lost nine of his first 14 games in charge, but ended up keeping Preston in the second tier with games to spare. As one of his fellow Scots would say, job done.

Sean St Ledger of Preston during the Carling Cup first round match between Preston North End and Chesterfield at Deepdale Stadium on August 12, 2008 in Preston, England. (Photo by Getty Images)

In his first full season, Irvine exceeded expectations by guiding Preston into the playoffs. An unprecedented run of wins to end the season, including a 6-0 win over Cardiff City and a dramatic 2-1 victory against Queens Park Rangers, saw North End sneak into the top six.

Fans will have fond memories of that team; Sean St Ledger starring at centre back, Ross Wallace racking up assist after assist and goals coming from the likes of Jon Parkin and Neil Mellor.

That season ended in a playoff semi-final defeat to Sheffield United, and things started to fall apart. Paul McKenna and St Ledger both left the club, recruitment was poor as Neill Collins and Velice Sumulikoski proved to be terrible replacements, and Irvine was sacked in December 2009.

His career since then hasn’t gone to plan. Stints with Sheffield Wednesday and West Bromwich Albion didn’t go to plan, and he’s currently back with David Moyes, serving as West Ham United assistant.

Ex-Preston North End manager Alan Irvine. (Photo credit should read PAUL ELLIS/AFP via Getty Images)

Now, St Ledger has offered his view on Irvine. The Irish international played his best football under the Scot, and St Ledger has told The Athletic that he felt Irvine was ‘phenomenal’.

The former Preston centre back added that it was great to work under Paul Simpson, but it’s Irvine who made a lasting impact as he became Player of the Year in the Scot’s second season in charge.

St Ledger went on to play for a host of clubs, but it’s clear that Preston remain close to his heart – and he has Irvine to thank for becoming a Preston hero.

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