Boss Alex Neil says Preston will not be distracted by Simon Grayson's return

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Preston boss Alex Neil thinks the return of his predecessor Simon Grayson to Deepdale tomorrow is more of an event for the PNE fans than him.

Three months on from his departure, Grayson is back with Sunderland for one of the stand-out matches on the fixture list.

Tom Barkhuizen scored at Hull

Tom Barkhuizen scored at Hull

It has been a tough time on Wearside for Grayson to date, with the Black Cats coming to Lancashire second-bottom of the Championship.

Asked whether the return had formed a big part of his planning with the players, Neil said: “It is not something we have discussed, it doesn’t make any difference to me.

“I just want to win the game like I would any other.

“I think it is one for the fans more than us, they built up an affinity with Simon when he was here in terms of what he managed to achieve.

“It is how they react and I think they will give him a good reception – the fans will make their own decisions.

“If you look at it from my position, Simon came in here, steadied the ship, took the club to the Championship, did well and left the place in good nick.

“As far as I’m concerned, he did a great job here.”

Neil and Grayson got the chance for a talk before the start of the season.

Said Neil: “I didn’t speak to him before coming here with regards to taking the job.

“But before the season there is a managers’ meeting and we had a good chat for half-an-hour.

“I found him to be a nice guy, we talked about how he was finding Sunderland, some of the players here – just the usual managerial chit-chat.”

Neil reported a clean bill of health from Tuesday night’s win at Hull, Tom Barkhuizen and Callum Robinson finding the net at the KCOM Stadium.

However, the absences of midfielders Ben Pearson and Paul Gallagher will run into the international break.

Pearson’s absence is one which has dragged on, with his last appearance being at Middlesbrough on August 26.

Said Neil: “It is difficult to put a time on injuries, I won’t be definitive because if they don’t get back on time you get accused of talking rubbish.”

While a good number of the current squad were signed in the Grayson era, Neil thinks the North End side has a much different look about it now.

“People talk about this squad as if it has been there for a couple of years,” said Neil.

“Three of the back four hadn’t really played games for Preston – Ben Davies, Josh Earl and Darnell Fisher.

“Sean Maguire is a new player, Josh Harrop is.

“This isn’t the squad which had done well over previous years.

“A lot of it is a new squad although there are guys who have been solid foundations in years gone by.”