Alex Neil says it will be 'a sad day' if Alan Browne leaves Preston North End after rise to captaincy

Alan Browne and Alex NeilAlan Browne and Alex Neil
Alan Browne and Alex Neil
The ex-PNE boss made Browne his captain in 2020

Ex-Preston North End manager Alex Neil believes it will be a ‘sad day’ if Alan Browne decides to leave the Lilywhites this summer.

The captain’s contract expires next month and he is yet to put pen-to-paper on PNE’s offer. In January, Browne came off the bench at Millwall for his 400th club appearance - having signed as a teenager in 2014. He won Player of the Year last season, with four goals scored in his 41 league appearances for Preston.

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Former boss, Neil - who coached Browne between July 2017 and March 2021 - sat down for an exclusive interview with the Lancashire Post last week. And North End’s number eight was discussed, with Browne handed the captain’s armband by Neil in 2021. The Scot has kept an eye on the Irishman ever since he left the dugout.

“Probably just pride, as much as anything else,” said Neil, when asked about Browne’s career at Preston. “I sent him a text the other day after his game - just telling him how proud I am of him, what he has done for the club and how proud he should be really. I think Alan Browne epitomises Preston North End. I think he is a no-nonsense, quiet, unassuming but gritty and hungry sort of animal - who wants to do as well as he possibly can. I made Alan captain.

“I tell you why he was the obvious choice... I think to be a really, really good captain you’ve got to be selfless. And you’ve got to want to be selfless; I was a very young captain at 23, but I probably became a proper captain at 25/26, once I realised it wasn’t all about me. Players have got egos and are selfish in certain ways, whereas I think Alan is a proper captain. And to be honest, he couldn’t have learned off a better guy than Tom Clarke - because he was a proper captain.

“Even before Tom, you had John Welsh as well. You talk about characters and your main characters in your changing room being men, who you can rely on - all three of those are guys you could hang your hat on, every day. I think, with Alan, he is the type of guy who would influence a match for you - even if he doesn’t play well. A couple of things happened with Alan, which is why he was the obvious choice - captain wise.

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“For instance, at half times, if I was having a bit with Pearo or Darnell - and I mention those two because it was normally those I’d want a reaction out of - Alan, irrespective of how close he was with those two lads in particular, would have a go at them if he felt it necessary. Al wasn’t frightened of saying his piece and I think a captain is a guy who - irrespective of who it is or how close they are - will say what needs saying for the good of the team.

“And Alan has got that; a lot of players don’t have it. If Alan spoke, people would listen because he wouldn’t do it very often - which meant it carried a lot of power when he did it. If he had something to say, he would voice his opinion. Alan is a thoughtful guy, as well - he wouldn’t just say something off the cuff, he would spend time thinking about what he’s going to say before he does it. I think, for me, it is a sad day if Alan does end up leaving - in my opinion. But, if he does, he should certainly leave with his head held high - in terms of what he has achieved and what he’s done for the club.”

Browne last signed a new deal in 2021, when his contract was set to run out. Neil was delighted to keep his skipper, as well as Daniel Johnson at the time. Back then, he felt the No.8 very much had the potential to become a club legend - but through success, over appearances. Neil thinks there would be a feeling of unfinished business, if Browne were to exit now.

“I think, if you look at the great captains Preston have probably had in recent years - guys like Grezza, Sean Gregan - you want to leave your mark on a club, as captain,” said Neil. “That is the one thing I, thankfully, did at Hamilton. There is not a better feeling, than when you are the captain of a team you’ve guided to the top league. That would be the perfect finale for Alan really, but I don’t know what’s going to happen there.”

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