New Preston Athletic joint-managers Jack Lynch and Paul Riley have revealed they were pleasantly surprised by the quality they have at their disposal after the squad’s first training session under the new regime on Tuesday night.
It’s not an admission you’d expect to hear regarding a club that have churned out a measly four wins all season and have just sacked their manager.
The Panners have been consigned to a bottom-place finish for a few weeks now, but they are still awaiting confirmation on whether or not they will be relegated to the East of Scotland League – the club’s future expected to be finalised in the next few weeks upon conclusion of the South of Scotland League campaign and the SPFL pyramid matches.
However, although admitting he expects to facing the likes of Leith Athletic, Tynecastle and Coldsteam next season in the East of Scotland set-up come August, Lynch, whose last job in the game was a spell in charge at Junior side Edinburgh United before stepping down in 2015, says he has been encouraged by what he has seen.
“We had our first training session the other night and I was really taken aback by the quality so myself and Paul were both pleasantly surprised,” Lynch explained ahead of tomorrow’s visit of Selkirk. “It’s just the belief that has been lacking throughout the squad because when you’re getting beat every week it’s hard for the guys to go out and express themselves.
“We’ve got at the very least three games left of the season so we want to try and change their mindset. Our immediate focus is just to go out and enjoy things and try and win these three games. No disrespect to Selkirk but they are towards the bottom of the league as well and there’s a reason for that.
“But, we have to build thinking we’re going to be an East of Scotland side next year. We know if that is the case then both Leith Athletic and Lothian Thistle Hutchison Vale are two fantastic teams and would easily finish in the top eight of the Lowland League so it certainly won’t be easy.
“It’s a great opportunity for both Paul and I. The club has underachieved for a number of seasons but we can see behind the scenes that the committee is working really hard to get things in place for next season – whatever division we are playing in. We are realistic in the challenge ahead. If we do go down then the main aim is to come straight back up next season.”
Riley, who had spells as a player with both Hibs and Brechin City, says the deal to replace predecessor Craig Nisbet wasn’t dependent on the duo coming in on a joint basis.
“It wouldn’t have been the be all and the end all for us if one had been manager and the other had been their assistant,” Riley explained. “The only way you’ll succeed in football is through trust. So whether Jack was the manager or I was the manager it wouldn’t have made much difference. When we sit down and discuss the team on a Thursday night – he’ll do his one and I’ll do mine. If we disagree on something then we’ll discuss it. We expect one another to voice our opinions and we take things on board. It’s a shared responsibility as it was when I went in to help Jack at Edinburgh United.
“It’s our time now. I’m 41-years-old so I still understand how players today think and what they expect. I’m very confident I’ve got a lot to bring to the table for a club like Preston so it’s a good fit.
“I’d love for the guys to show us over these next three games that they’re worth a contract next season. We’ve pointed it out that it’s a fresh start.”
Elsewhere, Spartans visit league champions East Kilbride tomorrow whilst Whitehill Welfare, who lost 2-1 at Vale of Leithen on Wednesday night, host Cumbernauld Colts at Ferguson Park.
Civil Service Strollers are at home to Stirling University and Edinburgh University are in action at Vale of Leithen.