Late-night texts and line-up leaks - the problems at Preston
What is going on at Preston North End?
Is manager Graham Westley out of his depth, floundering around desperately trying to keep his head above water, and his team in League One?
Or is he in the midst of a much-needed overhaul at a bloated club, instigating a period of change that was always going to be difficult and painful but will eventually reap rich rewards?
The new North End boss won back-to-back promotions with previous club Stevenage, taking them from non-league to the higher reaches of League One.
He was brought in by chairman Peter Ridsdale - formerly of Leeds, Cardiff and Plymouth and himself a relatively new addition at Deepdale - in mid-January. Ridsdale took his time over the appointment, spending a month searching for the right man to succeed previous incumbent Phil Brown.
But the events since Westley took over have made largely miserable viewing for North End's supporters.
Graham Westley is trying to change the culture at Preston, but it isn't proving easy. Photo - Getty Images
The latest bizarre development in Westley's reign came last weekend when the manager claimed that members of his squad leaked the line-up for Saturday's match against Sheffield Wednesday to their opponents in advance of the game.
Westley said after the 2-0 defeat that he had been told about it during the second half of the match by someone in the opposition dug-out. The 44-year-old chose to go public with the news because he said it illustrated the different factions within his squad. "When you've got a number of different agendas these things happen," he said.
Striker Iain Hume did not seem to agree. He argued on Twitter that "the squad is close and it needs to stay that way". On this evidence then, at the very least, the manager and one of his senior players seem to be at odds.
A lack of unity appears to be a feature of Westley's time in charge so far. After succeeding Brown, he quickly got rid of senior professionals such as Clarke Carlisle and Ian Ashbee, while Paul Coutts was stripped of the captaincy and told to go away and think about his attitude.
A text from Westley to his squad on the eve of his first game in charge quickly appeared on various websites. There were several false, trumped up versions of it. The club disputes that it was sent at 2am on a Saturday and that it was the first means by which four players first learned they had been dropped. Nonetheless, Westley did text his players with words of encouragement and news of it was picked up by large sections of the media.
Every day after the 44-year-old's appointment seemed to bring about new changes. Westley reconfigured the club's Springfield training ground, reducing the size of the area for injured players. "The place was feeling to me more like a spa than a football training ground so we have shifted the facilities around," said the PNE boss.
Westley sometimes sounds more like a middle-manager than a football manager and unquestionably has his own way of doing things. His players often work a full day, with double training sessions the norm, and his philosophy requires a degree of buy-in from his players that I suspect makes it difficult for him to take over a club in mid-season.
This is not to say that Westley has not brought in players of his own choosing. He has - and lots of them. He has signed enough new faces to field a fresh starting XI.
Westley's new additions mean he now has a first-team squad of more than 30 players, far more than Preston can afford, especially considering attendances at Deepdale are now regularly on the wrong side of 10,000. The list on the back of the match programme seems to go on forever.
Despite the seeming abundance of selection options, Aaron Brown, a central defender by trade who arrived at the club in January having been unable to secure regular first-team football at Aldershot, was up front at Wednesday.
It hints at Westley's dissatisfaction with his squad and his desperation to put points on the board.
Results show that the new signings have failed to improve form. Under Westley, North End have won twice in 15 games, scoring eight goals. Preston contested three successive goalless home draws in late February and early March and looked completely devoid of attacking spark.
Westley has a reputation for building robust and competitive teams and is keen to stress that he is working hard with his players to build from the back, create a solid base, and maintains that in time he will win over the doubters in the stands. It did not sound that way last Tuesday at the end of an inept 3-1 home defeat against Brentford as fans booed Westley all the way from the dugout to the tunnel at the final whistle.
It took the manager two hours to appear in front of the media after that defeat but when he finally showed up he admitted the performance had left him ashamed and embarrassed. He added that he would take it on the chin and hinted at significant changes in the summer.
Just as well because the sad truth is that more than 40 players have represented the club this campaign and of these in excess of 20 have made their debuts.
North End are now 16th in the table, six points above the relegation zone with six fixtures remaining and a tough run-in that includes games against MK Dons, Huddersfield and Charlton. If they had not won seven of their first nine league matches they would now be in horrific trouble.
The club are appealing for a bumper crowd on Saturday to celebrate the birthday of Sir Tom Finney, who turns 90 on Thursday.
In one sense Finney is an ever-present at Deepdale as his image looks down from the stand named in his honour. I imagine that he cannot be very impressed by what he has seen in recent months.