Neil thinks North End will suit him fine
Preston manager Alex Neil seemed to fit very comfortably into his new surroundings at Deepdale '“ just as his friends had predicted.
A shade under 24 hours since being confirmed as the Lilywhites boss, Neil faced the media in the players’ lounge underneath the Invincibles Pavilion.
There followed the obligatory scarf-holding photographs on the pitch, a surface by the way looking in perfect nick.
It will be what the PNE supporters see played on that area of grass on which Neil will be judged in the coming season.
If what Neil said in front of the media proves correct, he won’t need a particularly lengthy settling-in period.
“Most of the people I know in football who I have talked to in the last day or so, have used the same phrase,” said Neil.
“It is that they think this is the perfect fit for me and for Preston in terms of being hard-working, determined and enthusiastic.
“I think I bring attributes which the people at the club have too.
“My job is to nurture that and bring the club on.”
It was only this time last week that North End found out they would need a new manager in the wake of the departure to Sunderland of Simon Grayson.
To have replaced Grayson in less than a week was quick work, and it seems Neil was identified extremely early on as being first-choice.
Said Neil: “Simon left at the tail-end of the week and Peter Ridsdale rang me and basically said they were really keen to speak to me about the position here.
“He asked me whether I would be interested and I said I was.
“We arranged for me to come up here and speak to the owner.
“After spending an hour or so in the company of the owner and Peter, talking about football, the club, the ambition of the club and the squad – that type of thing – it was an easy decision.”
Neil inherits a squad which he only intends ‘tinkering’ with rather than changing on a wholesale basis.
Four signings were made in the latter stages of Grayson’s time in charge – Josh Harrop, Declan Rudd, Sean Maguire and Kevin O’Connor.
There is more business to be done in the coming weeks, with a centre-half high on the list of priority.
It is business which Neil will have a big say in but done very much in conjunction with the club and within their buying policy.
“At any club these days, in particular at a club like Preston, I don’t think signings are made solely by the manager,” said Neil.
“Obviously the manager will have a big say and if he doesn’t want a player, that player won’t come in.
“It is natural for the club to have some kind of input because the simple fact is you are working within certain constraints.
“I think we have already got a good squad and moving forward I will be looking to add some more really good young players.”
Neil’s brief is to push PNE towards the Premier League, having taken Norwich there two years ago.
A promotion to the top flight was also something he achieved in Scotland with Hamilton.
With both promotions, Neil had the same starting point – lots of belief.
The 36-year-old said: “I think belief has a lot to do with it as much as anything else.
“When I went to Norwich and even to a certain extent with my Hamilton team when they went up, the one thing was to make the players and everyone else believe it was possible.
“If you don’t believe you can do it, you are never going to achieve something.
“My first task here is to make sure the players believe in themselves.
“The next thing is that they are playing well enough as a group to get momentum and get the fans behind us.
“If we can do that, it is a very powerful driving force which can propel us further up this league.
“On Thursday I will meet the players and the staff.
“Like at Norwich, the staff will be with me every step of the way in terms of the direction we will go.
“Going forward, they will be involved in every process.
“We will be working with the players about how we are going to play, both in terms of when we have the ball and when we haven’t got it.
“The players will all be fighting for positions and we want them believing where we can go from here.
“It is an exciting challenge, one I’m so looking forward to.
“I’ve not been out of the game long, in effect just the final six weeks of last season.”