The Preston North End manager says facing the Red Devils is tough, but not tough enough to make his top five sporting challenges.

16 Feb 2015

As Preston dreamed of slaying the giants of Manchester United in the FA Cup fifth round, we sat down with manager Simon Grayson to talk about his five biggest challenges in sport. Louis Van Gaal’s men didn’t even get a look in, but losing a mate to prostate cancer most definitely did...

1. Cycling from London to Amsterdam for Men United

This is my number one, without a shadow of a doubt. A friend of mine died last year from prostate cancer and I wanted to put something back in memory of him.

The ups and downs of the hills in England and the distance – 145 miles – are a massive challenge, but one I’m looking forward to. I’m not training at the moment. Football’s been getting in the way. But I will be. I’ve been given a programme by my fitness coaches to get in some sort of condition for it. I’m sure that won’t stop me getting a sore backside over the next few weeks.

There will be a contingent of Preston staff, ground staff and close friends who are doing it and hopefully we can raise a lot of money and awareness for a fantastic charity.

Simon Grayson Preston North End PNE Men United

2. Getting Leeds United promoted from League One

It was the last game of the season and we had to win to get automatic promotion. There were 36,000 fans inside Elland Road, and a fantastic atmosphere. Suddenly we were down to ten men and then 1-0 down with half an hour to go. You’re thinking: this is not going to be our day. But we regrouped and won the game 2-1 and got automatic promotion.

Simon Grayson Preston North End PNE Men United

3. Working with football chairmen

I’ve worked with a few, most notably Ken Bates at Leeds. That was a challenge and another one was when I first started my career at Blackpool, with Karl Oyston. They were both different types of characters, very demanding and controversial to say the least at times.

Simon Grayson Preston North End PNE Men United

4. Facing a Darren Gough delivery

I enjoyed playing cricket, but I didn’t enjoy facing fast bowlers. I faced Darren Gough when he was 15 or 16 and it wasn’t ideal, hence why I got into football and decided to stay out of the way of 90-100 mile per hour balls. I fancied myself as a cricketer but when you get to 15-16 and Darren Gough is down one end of the wicket then it’s a little bit more daunting than you thought.

Simon Grayson Preston North End PNE Men United

5. Facing the world’s media

It’s a challenge when I’m going to be in front of the world’s media, like today for the Manchester United game press conference. Normally it’s one man and his dog doing our games v Yeovil and Gillingham, but today’s a great opportunity. We want a good cup run, a good promotion challenge and then a bike ride.

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Simon Grayson Preston North End PNE Men United

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