Preston North End manager Ryan Lowe has hit back at supporters who booed his decision to substitute Manchester United loanee Alvaro Fernandez during the second half of Saturday’s 2-0 defeat to Sheffield United at Deepdale.
With 69 minutes on the clock and the Lilywhites 1-0 down, Lowe made the decision to make a triple substitution, taking off Emil Riis, Ali McCann and Fernandez. The move was greeted by loud boos towards Lowe, who was watching the match from the Deepdale gantry due to a touchline ban.
Frustrations are running high at Deepdale following a strange start to the season, which has seen Preston score just three goals in their opening 10 Championship matches, even though, on the flip side, they have only conceded four times. They have won just twice so far this term and are yet to win on their own patch.
But while Lowe understands the supporters’ frustrations, he has admitted that he was surprised by the reaction to his decision to make a triple change when he did. He also directly addressed the withdrawal of Fernandez, admitting that the United youngster had earlier taken a knock to his thigh.
“Yes, disappointed,” said Lowe, as quoted by Lancs Live. “What I will say, is that these fans pay their hard-earned money and they can voice their opinion, rightly so. But, what they don’t know is that Alvaro took a knock to his thigh at half-time and was struggling to run towards the end. I had to freshen it up, but the lads coming onto the pitch represent Preston North End well.
“I get the frustration, but you have to look at the other side. A lot of thinking goes into the changes we made; Ali and Alvaro were nearly covering 8-9km already. At some point, they were going to tire and fatigue, so we thought that getting a bit more freshness onto the pitch would help us. It’s not a one or two-man game, it’s a squad game and that’s what I’ve always said.
“So, I get the frustration, but please be patient with the group because they are working hard to try and make the fans happy and make all of us happy. It did (take me by surprise), to be fair, but Alvaro is a 20-year-old kid who has never played Championship football before or any first-team football. He is finding his feet as well and he’d probably tell you that.
“He’s up against a lad in (George) Baldock who has made probably 300 appearances in the Championship. Alvaro was always going to fatigue at some point; I thought he was fantastic in the first half and then died off a bit towards the end.
“Ali has obviously played 45 minutes the other night and then gone again, so I didn’t expect it (the reaction) to be honest, but it’s football, isn’t it? Fans can voice their opinions whenever they want.
“I don’t think it was all of them. I think it was a minority, but please be patient with the group because they are working their socks off and trying – especially the ones coming onto the pitch because they don’t need to hear that.”