Preston North End might not have won at Bramall Lane since 1978, but manager Simon Grayson believes records like that are made to be broken.
The North End boss was still in school when the Lilywhites came away from Sheffield United with a 1-0 victory on 18th November, just under 35 years ago, but he is confident his side can continue their current winning form when they travel across the Pennines this weekend.
“I was still at school, primary school, well these records are there to be broken aren’t they?” he said at a press conference at Springfields.
“We always say that when people throw stats at you, that we want to go and win the game there, last year we came close to winning it, I thought we were in a very comfortable performance last year, even though it was at the back end of the season.
“It’s one of those games where we want to sustain the run that we’re on and make sure we don’t get beat.
“You look at them as a team, obviously they’re underperforming at this moment in time, they’ve got some good players there – they signed Marlon King this week as well.
“So, tough game for us, a team that’ll have a huge fanbase behind them but we go there in good sprits.”
Despite their early season struggles, the quality of Sheffield United’s squad is clear to see and ever-expanding – proven by their recent acquisitions of Jose Baxter and former Premier League striker Marlon King.
“You look through their squad, they’ve got Championship players in nearly every position,” Grayson commented.
“I looked at their back four this morning, you’ve got Tony McMahon, Neil Collins, McGuire and Matt Hill as well – so that’s not a bad back four that has got great experience.
“They’ve got one or two younger players in the midfield department, they’ve signed Baxter from Oldham who is a talented footballer, so they’ve underachieved but we want to make sure that we implement our own game and give them something to worry about.”
North End are coming off a satisfying 3-0 win over Stevenage at Deepdale, which made it three consecutive victories in League One.
The Lilywhites scored twice in the second half to seal the triumph over the Boro, and Grayson says he was pleased with the application of his players after a successful half time chat.
“I was pleased with the end product of it all, I felt at half time we needed to up the tempo without the ball and the urgency with it,” he said.
“Saying that, we still had three or four gilt edged chances – Bev hit the post, Humey did and should have scored with another header, Joel Byrom had an opportunity.
“I just felt we gave them too much space and a few too many opportunities ourselves but really second half we got that second goal which gave us that platform to go off and express ourselves a little bit more and come the end of the game it could have been a lot more comfortable score line than the three goals that we scored.”
Unlike when the 43-year-old first took charge at Deepdale, North End are currently enjoying a whole week between matches – rather than having to play on Tuesdays and Saturdays in quick succession.
And Grayson admits it is nice to have time to rest, as well as make the most of vital hours on the organisation of his squad at Springfields.
He said: “That’s nice and it also gives you time throughout the week to do a bit of recovery work but also to spend some time on the training pitch.
“We’re on Saturday to Saturday at the moment but once the winter months step in then I’m sure there will be a few cancelled games and you go into Saturday to Tuesday.
“But at this moment in time the players are enjoying what they’re doing, working hard on the training pitch to sustain what we’ve done since the start of the season.”
Recently, Preston have reaped the rewards of playing an effective 3-5-2 formation, with Keith Keane and Joel Byrom being the men in midfield.
The current competition in the squad for those spots is fierce though, as it is across the board for places in the starting XI.
“When you look at the midfield department that’s sat on the bench, you’ve got two Club captains in Mousinho and Welsh, who was player of the year last year, and Nicky Wroe, your leading goalscorer,” Grayson said.
“It tells you something about the other lads that are in there at the moment and doing a job that we’ve not had to change the team around for lack of form because they’re playing well and getting some results.
“Everybody will get an opportunity over the course of the season because that’s how it works, those lads will just have to be patient and work hard in training, which they’re doing.
“Some of them played in a game against Rochdale on Tuesday at the training ground and they have to maintain the level of fitness for when their ready to return to the team.”