It is always guaranteed to capture the attention when Paul Raynor tells of his anger at being replaced by David Beckham - and that he later wore Beckham’s shirt!
The Rotherham United assistant manager was able to reflect on his association with one of football’s most famous personalities when they were both at Preston North End, the club the Millers face tonight at Deepdale in the first leg of the League One Play-off semi-finals.
Beckham, then still only 18, was a burgeoning talent at Manchester United and was sent on loan to Preston in March 1994.
“This young lad only arrived on the Friday from Manchester United and we didn’t get much chance to see what he could do in training as we did some team shape and what have you that day in our final preparation,” said Raynor.
“The next day, we were at home to Doncaster, David is on the subs’ bench and he goes on for his debut and I got taken off.
“I wasn’t overly impressed because I took all the corners, the free-kick, the penalties. You name ‘em, I took ‘em. I gave the manager (Gary Peters) a volley of abuse when he took me off so he could put on this young lad from Man United.
“Within a couple of minutes, David had scored direct from a free-kick so that tells you everything.
“The following week, David started on the right but I got back in on the left. He was only there a month and actually wore the No.4 shirt. When he left, I replaced him as I’d been sub the week before and I was the one then wearing ‘his’ No.4 shirt.
“He was always out in the afternoons practising free-kicks and we’d give him a bit of stick saying he was busy and trying to suck up to the manager. Thankfully he didn’t take much notice and took it all in good heart and, as they say, practice makes perfect and we’ve all seen the fruits of that practice.
“He was a good lad, a really nice guy and he would come back and see us after he’d gone back.”
The Preston captain at that time was David Moyes.
“I know him very well and feel sorry for him at the minute, he’s a good man,” said Raynor.
“I played with him as captain and then under him as coach there when he took his first steps into coaching and management.”
Raynor, afforded a very warm reception by the home crowd when he returned to Deepdale with Rotherham for the league game in February, says they are a club that remain close to his heart.
He made over 100 appearances for them and once scored the winning goal in the final minutes of extra-time of a Play-off semi-final to take them to Wembley where he also scored only for them to lose to Wycombe.
“I had good times there, they’re a big club, a traditional club with very passionate fans who expect to win because they are proud of their club, hence the old nickname Proud Preston,” said Raynor.
“But those fans are demanding too and with it comes expectation and they’ll be expecting to go through.
“Certainly they are favourites and with that comes greater pressure.
“We need to make sure we’re focused and ready. Had anyone said at the start of the season we’d finish fourth we’d have snapped their hand off.
“It’s not just about who’s the bigger club. We’re ambitious to advance the club, we’re demanding of ourselves but the pressure is on definitely on Preston.”