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With the huge game against Preston on the horizon, BillytheBee caught up with David Bryant (@davidbryant95), a student and referee from Preston, to talk about Graham Westley, players’ revolts and David Beckham

What was your first match? Talk us through it

My first match was when I was about 5 years of age in 2000 at home to Crystal Palace, we lost the game 0-2. The only thing I remember that day was walking back to the car with my Dad and I was unable to understand how a football match could make someone so miserable. 13 years later I fully understand.

Preston have had a great start to the season. Won 10, Lost 2 and drawn 8 games. You are the only team so far to have beaten Leyton Orient on their own patch. Other than that, your most impressive result was probably beating Walsall 3-0 away. Pleased with the season so far?

We started the season at a very slow pace, drawing each of our first four games and, despite beating Blackpool, there was a feel of “Here we go again” regarding a poor season. However, our first win of the season was followed with a 0-3 win at Walsall, a team who at the time had not been beaten at home for nine months. That victory catapulted the Whites into a rich vain of away form and, so far this season, we have six away wins under our belt, which has put us in a position to compete for automatic promotion.

On the other hand Brentford fans will be pleased to hear that our home form has really held us back so far this season. We have won just three of our 10 home games, including a 0-2 defeat to relegation threatened Crewe and draws against the likes of Colchester and Tranmere. But overall it has been a solid start to the campaign and with Simon Grayson at the helm (who has achieved promotion from this division on three occasions) we believe.

You’re in the playoff places. The Orient result is the only proper result against the top sides (Swindon, Walsall and Port Vale were great results but they’re slight outsiders at the moment). All the rest you have either lost (Posh) or drawn (Wolves, Rotherham) against top six teams. Saying that you have got some great results against the ‘weaker’ sides that the top teams normally drop points against. Who have you played that looked half decent?

The most impressive team that we have played is between Wolves, Posh and, surprisingly, Bristol City. Wolves looked a solid outfit with talented players who are capable of winning a game. However, they also seemed to look a bit lazy and lacked real passion (the game finished 0-0). Bristol City came to Deepdale and dominated proceedings but their finishing was poor and they lacked morale. They are massively under-achieving (Preston won 1-0). However the best team we played this season was Peterborough at London Road. They ripped us to pieces in the first half as they possess class players like Britt Assombalonga and Tyrone Barnett, who simply shredded out defence. Although the Posh took their foot of the gas in the second half, they still did enough to be acknowledged as the best team we have played so far this season (game finished 2-0 to the Posh).

How do you think you will fair against the top challengers in the second half of the season? Can you keep the consistency?

With the Lilywhites being only three points behind second place at this stage of the season we need to be beating the teams around us from now until the end of the season, starting with Saturday. So far this season, we have been arguably the most consistent team in the league with just two defeats, and if we are able to keep this up, then we have every chance of finishing in the top two. We have a big squad with a strong bench with the likes of Iain Hume sat on it. I am confident of keeping the consistency up.

I remember you came down to us a couple of seasons ago (Sept 2011). Phil Brown had just become your manager and it was Uwe Rosler’s first season in charge. You beat us 3-1 and looked the best side by a mile we’d played all season (which was all of a month old). Neil Mellor scored a couple of goals that day and after the match I jumped into his car parked outside the ground, looked in his eye and sternly said “Don’t you ever .. Ever … Ever do that again”. He looked mighty perturbed as he didn’t know me from Adam. Until he looked out his other window and saw his brother laughing – who came to the game with me. Thought you were dead certs for promotion that season. What went wrong?

Haha I can’t blame Neil for being perturbed! I actually attended that game back in September of 2011 and it was our more convincing wins of the season. At the time we were on a seven-match winning run and we were right up their with Charlton. We then played Orient away, who were bottom of the league at the time, and we lost 2-1. Clarke Carlisle makes reference in his new book as to how Phil Brown went completely over the top after that game and, according to Clarke, Brown marched around the dressing room tearing up his notes and taking it out on the young players. What you have to take into account is that we had just won seven games on the trot. Is there any need for that sort of reaction?

After that game things weren’t the same and key injuries to Neil Mellor and Iain Hume added fuel to the fire as our season declined. After a run of 11 games without a win, Phil Brown got the boot after the appointment of Peter Ridsdale who became our new chairman.

You had, for a moment, Brentford’s ‘favourite’ winger in charge – Graham Westley. I heard many a Preston fan described his timely charge as ‘some of the darkest days at Preston’. I see he has the lowest league win percentage of any Preston manager ever at 21%. But surely he wasn’t that bad?

Aaah the controversial Graham Westley. He was employed after Phil Brown was sacked. He decided pretty much straight away that the current players weren’t his type and the only objective for the rest of the season was to stay up and regroup in the summer.

To be fair to Graham he tried. He couldn’t have given any more and he wanted Preston North End to be successful more than anyone. He was at stages a likeable character and he made a real effort to bond with the supporters. He wrote a weekly article in the local paper and he even gave supporters a refund out of his own back pocket after a game at Bury had been postponed.

The original squad he inherited didn’t like him as he introduced 9am-5pm training hours. He then brought in a few players on loan and we managed to scrape together enough points to remain in the division. Then came the summer. A summer like never seen before. He got rid of every single player except for the goalkeeper and a centre-half and brought in 22 new players. The 2012/13 season once again begun well and we were looking like a play-off-contending squad but unfortunately Westley just made too many mistakes including the loan signings of non league footballers.

The fans begun to take a disliking to Graham due to the constant excuse of “Key” injuries (A CB & LB). We went 12 home games on the trot without a win (the longest spell in the club’s history) before Westley finally got the push after a 3-1 away defeat to Yeovil due to genuine relegation fear. He claims he has learnt from his mistakes so maybe if he had his time again at Preston North End then he would be a success.

Was it true there was some sort of players revolt?

Yes, the club made it official. We were playing Sheffield Wednesday away in March of 2012. The pressure was already building on Westley despite only being in charge for three months and the players were furious about their new training hours. It turned out that two players had contacted Wednesday’s Gary Madine the night before the match and told him our line up and tactics. One of the players was Aaron Brown who had recently signed on a free from Aldershot and the other player is unnamed. Neither played for the club again.

Preston’s record is pretty similar to Brentford – the Bees having won two games more than Preston who drew theirs. Other than that we’re neck and neck on goals scored (30) and conceded (19). Our game has got draw written all over it. What’s your thoughts on the match?

Well I’m disappointed to be going into the game two points behind the Bees because going into injury time at the weekend we were two points above you! Brentford scored a late winner and we conceded a late equaliser to Crawley. We know that Brentford are a very good League One side with a great balance of talent, hard work and togetherness. We are expecting possibly the toughest test of the season but take my word for it, we’ll be more than ready.

What style of footie are you playing? Under Westley there was a certain element of ‘smash and grab’ – smash your opponents up and grab the ball if you can. I’m sure Grayson has refined your playing style somewhat.

Far from it regarding Westley. That’s the stereotypical view that stuck with him from his Stevenage days. But we played good attractive football at times and knocked it long when we needed too. When Westley was at Stevenage in the conference he had a bunch of conference quality players. Think of it like guerrilla warfare. You’re not going to get anywhere with those players playing attractive football so in order to be successful he needed to use different tactics in order to be successful. Doesn’t necessarily mean that he will play like that whereever we goes.

Under Grayson at the moment we very much play sideways football and attack down the wings. It’s not all too pretty to watch a lot of the time and it’s frustrating not to see us attack down the centre more often but if it gets us out of this league then I will be chuffed. Formation wise we play 4-4-2 at home and 3-5-2 away. Earlier in the season we played 3-5-2 at both home and away. Although we were performing well away, the 3-5-2 formation wasn’t working well at home and we dropped plenty of points at Deepdale. In the past two home games however we have reverted back to the 4-4-2 formation and we are playing a lot better.

Who is doing the business for you on the pitch?

The star man so far this season is leading goal scorer Joe Garner, he has scored 7 in his last 5 games before getting sent off against Port Vale. But don’t worry Brentford fans he’s returning from suspension on Saturday just for you ;). Another player is the midfielder turned centre back Jack King who has played CB for us 5 times this season and in that time we have only conceded 1 goal. He should return from injury on Saturday. However the quality Paul Gallagher who has made a real impact since joining on loan from Leicester is suspended which is a real shame.

Who has teacher Grayson put in the half term report as “must try harder”?

Our right midfielder Chris Humphrey who arrived on a free transfer from Motherwell in the summer after turning down a new contract at the SPL club. Despite having an immense work rate he is often wasteful. But on the bright side I have a lot of time for players who are willing to put in a shift.

Many fans probably didn’t know David Beckham actually played for Preston in the 3rd division back in the mid 90s. It was a few years before Paul Evans scored that incredible goal from the half-way line in the 2-2 draw at Griffin Park (see video clip) and David Moyes was a team mate. Beckham even scored for you direct from a free kick against F*lham which must have been bloody marvellous. Did he make an impact when he was there?

All of these events happened before my time if I’m honest but from what I’ve heard Beckham was a great loan signing and Beckham often refers to Preston as the club which made him the player he is today. Swings in roundabouts though. I have seen PNE sign Danny Welbeck and Andy Carroll on loan. Both were absolutely shocking!

Your fans came down to Griffin Park last season for Gentry Day (we would show you a link to the video but the football league quite naughtily has got the video removed when it shouldn’t be. It will be back soon so keep tuned). It was a good crack and created a great atmosphere on the day. Briefly what’s it all about. Any funny gentry day stories?

We’ve only been doing the gentry for three years. The idea of the day is to remember all those who passed away in the last year who were associated with the club. People who lived in Preston in the 18th century were known as the “Gentry” due to the way the people dressed (Suits, tombola hats etc). At this time Preston was actually the inspiration for the Russian revolution due to how well functioned the city was.

Have you picked you a gentry day for this season? On your current form you’ll take loads

Usually the date is decided around January time. Looking at the fixture list it will either be Oldham or Swindon away. Probably Oldham because it’s not too far away and we usually take a good 2500 their anyway.

Who are your local rivals?

Our biggest rival is Blackpool with Burnley just behind. Then after that you’ve got the likes of Blackburn and Carlisle (They think it’s a derby so we just pretend that it is)

What’s the maddest derby game you have ever been to?

The game we had in August is hard to look past when we beat Blackpool 1-0 with a Super Tommy Clarke header in the 87th minute. Any Derby match is quite mad when you find yourself in the centre circle at habsolute scenes. It was a tough journey home though because Burnley fans who are known for being rough don’t like to lose and when they do there is always a kick off. This time round it was only glass bottles being thrown at the escort back to the train so it wasn’t too bad.

Head to head, Brentford are just shading it winning 18 games to the PNE’s 16 with 12 games drawn. Do you think the Bees’ run will continue?

I’m confident that we won’t lose (Like I was at Orient away).

Give us a score prediction

Has to be a draw, I’m going for 1-1 just like last year.

Places to drink?

I only turned 18 two weeks ago so I’m no expert. A lot of the pubs around the ground have actually closed down of late so it’s more a case of last man standing. But the Sumners Arms is the best place to go none the less according to all home supporters and friends. (I’ve not actually been in)

We would like to thanks David for chatting to us. You can catch up with him on @davidbryant95