North End manager Graham Westley has seen plenty of Boxing Day opponents Bury of late, but is expecting a different test on Wednesday.
Speaking to PNE.Com ahead of the clash with the Greater Manchester outfit, the gaffer admitted that a lot of the preparatory work had already been done, having faced the Shakers less than a week ago, but says that they will come with different plans and issues for the Lilywhites to deal with.
“Whenever you play two games in quick succession, the preparation has already happened,” he told the official website. “You have planned, prepared and thought through that opposition. You have to take into account that sides aren’t going to put the same proposition in front of you; they are going to do things differently and you have to be ready for that, but it is always a little bit easier when you are getting ready for an opposition that you know.
“When you have overcome opponents under different managements it does give you a psychological advantage, but I am mindful of the fact over 90 minutes last week it was a 3-3 draw, albeit there were circumstances that affected the game. We are under no illusions about their potential.
“They have definitely improved under new management. One or two lads have come into the frame from outside of the club and one or two lads have come back to fitness. They are a tough enough proposition. They have been putting together some steady results and some decent performances, so we won’t underestimate that they will bring us a challenge.”
The last two games have delighted the PNE chief, in terms of the spirit and character shown by his team, and he things these facets are coming together after a long spell.
“The one thing that we have still struggled to really show through the time that I have been here at Preston is the winning spirit; that winning ethos and the togetherness that it takes to be successful.
“It has been difficult bringing so many new players together, especially with the amount of injuries we have had and the inconsistency in selection to actually forge the type of spirit that you need to create success. We all know about the January to May period and the difficulties we had there and since we got started this season the haphazard nature of selection, caused in the large part by the injuries that we have had, hasn’t made it easy.
“The last couple of games, what we won, we won on spirit. We won on determination, we won on steel and we won on playing together for the good of the football club and it was terrific to see the appetite the lads played with at the weekend [at Coventry]. They weren’t going to take no for an answer in the second half and it was their force of desire that eventually took them on and brought them through with the point that we won.”
The Christmas and New Year holiday period see the need for a manager to accommodate the needs of training with the needs of families and the festivities, however, he says the key is professionalism and being ready to celebrate on the field, not off it.
“Over 16 years or so, I have dealt with holiday periods and Christmas holiday periods in all sorts of different ways,” he continued. “You trial and error as a manager. You look back to your own playing experiences and remember how things were done when you were playing – the good and the bad.
“You have to make sure that you get the balance right. You are stupid if you ignore the practicalities of the Christmas period, but you have a duty to be professional as well. We do things in what we think is the right way, with a view to preparing the team thoroughly for what is going to be a really tough and a really demanding festive period.
“The Christmas period on a whole brings people into the grounds. People want to be entertained and we are in the entertainment industry. It is a great time for the feel good factor to be around any football club.
“It is great to be at home over Christmas. We have the Boxing Day game and then Donny at the weekend – two cracking fixtures for us to look forward to. I am sure Deepdale is going to be full with home supporters and we are all really looking forward to putting on a Christmas show.”
Tickets for the game are on sale from the ticket and retail store until 4pm on Christmas Eve and again from the ticket office from 9am on Boxing Day (matchday) morning. You can buy online until midnight on Christmas Day – with Christmas Cracker tickets (Bury and Doncaster for just £30, £20 or £10) on sale until close of business on December 24th.