New boss Neil ready to run the rule over the Lilywhites

Preston will get their first chance to impress new boss Alex Neil in tonight's friendly at Bamber Bridge.

Friday, 7th July 2017, 7:00 am
Updated Tuesday, 18th July 2017, 8:45 am
Preston North End's Greg Cunningham

The opening pre-season contest at the Sir Tom Finney Stadium has taken on extra significance with the arrival of Neil this week.

He will watch from the stand, with first-team coach Steve Thompson directing proceedings on the Irongate touchline.

At this early stage, there are unlikely to be too many clues as to how Neil will want PNE to line-up under him.

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The Scotsman says he used certain systems at Norwich but formations would always be determined by what was available in the squad.

Neil told the Post: “I flipped in between formations when I was Norwich manager.

“I played three at the back a couple of times because of who they were playing against.

“But in the main 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1 were my preferred styles with the players I had.

“The style we will play will be based around the players I have at my disposal.

“At the moment I haven’t got a set framework in mind.

“If for example, I had two special strikers who can score lots of goals, I would find a way of getting them both in the team.”

Although Neil referenced ‘young players’ several times in his first press conference on Wednesday, he very much sees a place for experienced heads in the squad.

Finding the right blend will form part of his pre-season work and planning.

Said Neil: “Experience and youth is a great balance to have.

“Having a few solid senior pros in your team is absolutely crucial.

“They are the guys who can teach the younger lads a few tricks of the trade, how to use your body right, communicate with them and guide them through games.

“Equally with the younger lads, they will have the talent and could potentially move themselves up to a higher level.

“What they need is a bit of guidance which can come from myself and the coaching staff, together with the senior players.

“It is crucial we roll all of that together as we strive to improve.”

Most of the PNE squad will get game time tonight against Neil Reynolds’ Brig outfit.

There could be a return for Greg Cunningham after he missed the final stages of the season with a fractured leg.

Having been one of PNE’s most consistent performers of the last two seasons, the Irishman again has a key role to play this term.

It might be that Calum Woods is given more training time before getting a run out, having recently returned from an 11-month lay-off with a torn cruciate ligament.