Harry’s game is the next test for Lilywhites boss

Birmingham striker Che Adams
Birmingham striker Che Adams
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There will be no easing up from Alex Neil as he prepares Preston for their clash with Birmingham City.

After seeing PNE knock Cardiff off the top of the table in midweek, Neil now has his focus on a Blues team at the other end of the league.

The North End manager’s preparation for the visit to St Andrews has been along the same lines as it was for facing Cardiff – the Championship’s unpredictable nature seeing to that line of thought.

“In the same way I wasn’t getting too concerned about playing Cardiff when they were top of the league, I won’t be going to Birmingham and being blasé, thinking they are not doing well,” said Neil.

“All the games at this level, regardless of how well you are doing, home or away, top of the league or bottom of the league, they are equally as difficult.

“Birmingham is going to be just as difficult as Cardiff was for different reasons.

“We will have to perform well if we want to win.”

Awaiting North End in the Midlands on Saturday is a City squad which has evolved a great deal over the summer.

Harry Redknapp brought in 14 players, breaking the club’s transfer record to sign Jota from Brentford.

Things have yet to gel, with Birmingham having lost their last five games – four of them in the league.

Tuesday night’s 2-0 defeat at Leeds saw them slip into the bottom three of the table.

Said Neil: “Harry is well known for having an influx of players and he has certainly done that since he’s been at Birmingham.

“It will always take time for a squad to gel.”

Redknapp took the Blues job last April, overseeing the last three games of the season and keeping them up by the skin of their teeth.

Between jobs at the time, Neil took a close interest in their survival.

“At the end of the season I was at two of those matches,” said Neil.

“I think Huddersfield did them a favour by making 10 changes in one of the games.

“But they were really high-pressure games and every credit has to go to the players and Harry that they managed to take that on their shoulders and get results.

“Birmingham are a big club and no one would have liked to have them slip out of the Championship.

“I think it is important we have as many good and big clubs as we can in the league.”

Redknapp is confident his newly-assembled squad will click into gear.

He said: “It is a new team and it is going to take a bit of time. People are going to have to be patient.

“But it’s gone from a team that I took over, a team that survived on the last day of last season – they had a disastrous 25 games, two wins –it’s now a team there for the future for Birmingham City.

“You have got players who are going to go on and be good players for this club.

“There are some smashing players here.”

Blues have fitness doubts over Jota and Che Adams, a player who scored twice against PNE last season.