Alex Neil on what the behind-closed-doors experience will be like for Preston North End players

Preston North End manager Alex Neil says playing league games behind closed doors will be a strange experience for players and coaches.

Monday, 27th April 2020, 6:00 am

If football was to resume in the summer, it would be in empty stadiums because of Government guidelines on social distancing and mass gatherings.

Reports circulated at the end of last week that it could be October at the earliest before fans are back in grounds.

Even that prediction could be on the optimistic side as the country battles to get on top of the Covid-19 pandemic.

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Lilywhites manager Alex Neil

But if football wants to get going sooner rather than later, empty grounds are only way of achieving that.

Neil said: “The fact that fans won’t be able to be at games is considerable.

“Most players during their career won’t really have experienced anything like this. Perhaps the only games they might have played behind closed doors is in pre-season.

“Sometimes there might have been the odd game you played in private before the public pre-season friendlies started.

“I think that side of it is going to be really strange but what else can you do?”

Like most EFL clubs, North End are working towards a return to training on May 16.

That is a guideline for the time being rather than set in stone, but the squad’s fitness programme is built towards being back at Springfields in mid-May.

Should the season resume in early June and be finished by the end of July or early in August, Neil envisages only a short break before the 2020/21 campaign kicks-off.

Everything is dependant on the Government and what rules remain in place on social distancing.

Said Neil: “I don’t think there is going to be enough time to have a pre-season between finishing these games and starting the next season.

“If we do start on the date that is recommended, we would probably finish the season off, have a couple of weeks and then start again.

“I’d be happy to do that for the good of the league, whatever is best for the league to get everything back to normal.

“The sponsors will have the major say in all this, they are putting the money in and that drives it.

“Once a decision is made about when to start, we just have to fit in with that.

“My job is to get the players ready to play the remaining games of the season in whatever the time frame is.

“We will just get on with it and enjoy being back together.

“At the moment it is for others to make that call and we have to wait.

“The players are keeping fit and we can ramp things up as we go along.”