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First Team News

Simon Grayson Relishing Villa Park Test

20 January 2017

Manager Simon Grayson walked out onto the Villa Park pitch many times, after a successful spell there as a player, but this is his first time in the dug out.

The Preston North End boss will take a side to play at his old club for the first time, looking to complete the double over the expensively assembled pre-season favourites for an immediate return to the top flight.

Reflecting on his time at the second city side, the North End gaffer remembered his time with the Villains fondly and feels his side will relish the surroundings that will be their arena come three o’clock this coming weekend.

“I really enjoyed my time at Villa Park,” said the PNE chief. “It was a difficult decision to leave Leicester, as I had just won the League Cup and won the player of the year at Leicester, but to work with Brian Little again at such a big club as Aston Villa was something that I couldn’t turn down.

“I had two fantastic years there. We were top of the Premier League for a long time, got to the quarter-final of the European Cup and I had some really good times there.

“I got to the stage where other players developed and that kept me out of the team, hence why I moved to Blackburn, but one of those players happens to be Gareth Barry, so I’m not too disappointed having seen the career he has gone on to have.

“It is a great club with a great history. Going back to my younger days of watching football Villa Park was an iconic stadium, affiliated with the semi-finals of the FA Cup and it’s a fantastic arena to play, but it’s a Championship club now.

“We will go there and enjoy the surroundings and the occasion, but we will go there to win the game and put on a good performance.”

Earlier in the week Villa boss Steve Bruce warned his squad that they would have to play at their best as every other team in the division saw them as ‘the’ scalp, so does Simon agree with his opposite number?

“I would agree with what Steve said. Along with Newcastle, they were the big teams who came down. There are some massive teams in this division, but the ones who come down are always the ones that people look at; the stadiums, the teams, the budgets – it is a real feather in your cap if you beat them.

“What Steve said is something all the other teams will agree with, because it is a good place to go. You have to enjoy yourself in these arenas and do what your capabilities allow you to do to win a game.

“It would be a real feather in our cap if we can do the double over them, especially considering they are unbeaten at home as well. We are going there in good spirits, off the back of the result we achieved against the then league leaders.

“We know it will be tough; they have some good individuals, but we aware that they are not playing to their full capabilities at this moment in time,” he added.

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