Preston's Ryan Lowe reveals chance meeting with Conte's brother

Preston boss Ryan Lowe reveals his chance meeting with Antonio Conte’s brother… which has left him armed with inside information ahead of FA Cup fourth round clash with Tottenham

  • Preston North End host Premier League Tottenham in the FA Cup fourth round
  • Preston boss Ryan Lowe has revealed how he met Antonio Conte’s brother
  • The pair spoke about the Spurs boss during Tottenham’s loss to Liverpool 

As it happens, Ryan Lowe was picking up secrets about Antonio Conte before realising he even needed them. From the Tottenham manager’s brother, no less, so the information is solid.

‘I was in Antonio Conte’s box watching Liverpool win with my boy,’ he tells Sportsmail. ‘We got invited down, had some food and all that. It was a great experience. His brother was excellent. We spoke about Antonio a little bit.

‘Then, lo and behold, we get drawn against them. I know Antonio’s agent and have asked him what red wine he drinks. Hopefully he can come in at the end of the game and have a glass. I might have to talk a bit slowly because of my Scouse English.’

Preston boss Ryan Lowe has revealed his chance meeting with Antonio Conte’s brother

Lowe was invited to north London as Tottenham hosted Liverpool and spoke with Conte’s brother Gianluca (left)

Lowe’s invite to north London came two months before his Preston team were pitted against Spurs in an FA Cup fourth-round tie this Saturday that feels rather familiar. North End regularly draw Premier League opposition at home in this competition.

Lowe boasts two promotions on his c.v, taking Bury and Plymouth Argyle out of League Two. Pictures of those triumphs hang in his office, serving as reminders as he happily accepts the challenge of attempting to end Preston’s 62-year top-flight exile.

‘Let’s have it right: Preston shouldn’t be anywhere near the play-offs as we speak, with the teams around us,’ he says, reeling off the clubs with far larger budgets.

‘We’re four points off third — that is remarkable for Preston. Should we have won more games and be third now? 100 per cent.’

The start to this season is a factor. Lowe, renowned for expansive football, presided over five goalless draws in Preston’s first six matches. They did not score more than once in a game until the 3-2 win against Norwich in October. ‘Your paper came to do that game,’ he adds.

Preston overcame Huddersfield 3-1 to progress into the fourth round of the FA Cup where they face Spurs 

‘The idea was because we were ‘boring’ — and I’ve got no problem with that. Fair play, afterwards you came out and said: ‘Well, they’re far from boring’. We’re winning more points now, and I’m one of those managers who if we outscore the opposition then I’m fine.’

He is also a manager who has had to contend with more than most. Lowe’s first job, at Bury, was in the final months of their existence as we knew it. May 4, 2019 — the date of their promotion party — marks the last time Gigg Lane was used. Lowe left for Plymouth weeks later and the Shakers were expelled from the Football League.

‘With the first chairman, the payments were always late but always arrived,’ Lowe says. ‘With the second chairman, we just didn’t get anything. He had no intention of paying us anything. I had lads crying at my desk and I cried with them.

‘I said, ‘If you’re not mentally right to play, don’t play’, but I didn’t want them to miss an opportunity to have their kids on the pitch with medals around their necks.’

Lowe deviates to discuss the UEFA Pro Licence he studied; the certificate also hangs nearby. ‘I went on that course to find out about managing up but I found all that out in the first six months of the job. Chairman at my house, arguments on my doorstep over non-payments with my kids looking out the window. Without my family, it would’ve broken me.’

So the challenges at Preston — trying to make shrewd loan signings and shifting a recruitment model that had previously focused on buying from the lower divisions — come with fewer real-life pressures. ‘We’ve overachieving,’ he says. ‘If in three or four years’ time I can’t do it, no problem, it’s time for someone else, but we have to be in it together.

Lowe admitted to ‘relentlessly watching’ interviews by top-flight managers to monitor body language

‘Craig Hemmings (the owner), who has been fantastic, is trying to sustain it. I wouldn’t have come to Preston if they weren’t run properly and didn’t offer longevity to managers.’

That is not a luxury afforded to everybody. Lowe has intimate knowledge of Everton, and suggests Frank Lampard was not given the resources to succeed there, while he is a close friend of Steven Gerrard. ‘The bigger names need to hit the ground running because of who they are, which is unfair. Stevie did really well at Rangers, he overachieved against Celtic. To go to Aston Villa, start well, then not get time is disappointing as a friend.’

Lowe takes a keen interest in all of this. He has spent mornings at Liverpool training and soaked up man-management tips from Gareth Southgate over Zoom. He admits to ‘relentlessly watching’ interviews by top-flight managers to monitor body language and took notes as he sat watching Pep Guardiola while scouting Spurs at the Etihad earlier this month.

‘They get a goal back and Pep’s not having it with the fans — ‘Woah, woah, you were booing at half time’. You can see the antics, I’m like, ‘My God, that’s Pep Guardiola arguing with the fans’. But he’s not really having a go at them, he’s telling them to get behind the team.

‘I speak to managers as much as I can. It’s more about quizzing them on stuff other than the football. It’s nice if you can pick their brains. And speak about other things: how they go about their business, the ups and downs.

‘Look at Mikel Arteta — people were asking if he was the right man and now look, it’s about how he’s got there. Arteta shares the same agency as me and I’ve been dying to speak to him, but it’s got to be when the time is right. I’d never ask to go in when they’re in bad form. You don’t want to be that pain in the backside.’

Except for Saturday. Preston might well relish being a pain in the backside then.

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