Deal or no deal? Preston North End boss Alex Neil opens up on frustrations of getting players to commit
Getting players signed up to new contracts is a balancing act, according to Alex Neil.
The Preston North End boss has plenty to sort out for the upcoming season, with a host of key players in his squad entering the final year of their agreements.
Declan Rudd recently committed his future to PNE until at least 2023.
But amongst those in the final 12 months of their contracts are Ben Davies, Ben Pearson, Alan Browne and Daniel Johnson.
With multiple players nearing the end of their deals, Neil admitted that as well as wages and contract length, the likelihood of team-mates committing to new deals can sway a player either way.
He said: “It’s quite strange, but which player do you start by signing?
“What players tend to do, particularly if there are quite a few contracts up at the same time, is that they want to know if you’re going to sign their mate as well because they think they’re very good.
“The difficulty you’ve got is which one do you sign first and where do you start?
“I think the one that is absolutely crucial is that goalkeeper is a very specific position and you need to resolve that.
“It’s really important that you get that sorted as quickly as you can, which we’ve done.
“We’ve got quite a number of players whose contracts run out in a year’s time.
“I’m pretty sure that individually they’ll want to be spoken to and find out what’s happening and the lay of the land, but equally, what’s happening with their mates.
“A lot of them will want to commit, provided they know we’re going to have a go to try to do as well as we can.
“If you’re a key player, you want to make sure there are other key players in and about you.
“If you’re signing that extended contract and signing for a few years, you want to make sure that the club is going to do their utmost to keep what you deem to be the best players in the squad. That’s only natural.
“It’s the same as a manager. If you’re going into a team, the last thing you’re going to want to do is all your better players to leave because then your job becomes extremely difficult. “
With the task soon at hand of convincing players to switch to PR1, Neil discussed what it is like having to do the convincing.
Again though, the Scot stressed that it is not as easy as it appears from the outside looking in.
He said: “It really depends on where you’re recruiting from.
“If you’re recruiting from lower levels, my experience is that they’re buzzing to be here. They’re moving to a bigger club, they’re moving to a higher level and working with better players.
“If you’re looking to recruit from an equal level or a higher level, they naturally want – well, they want the cash, first and foremost. That’s pretty obvious.
“The better level of player you go for, there’s competition. That’s only natural.
“Then it’s a case of trying to beat off the competition, whether it be financially, or in terms of – and this is the difficulty you’ve got – guaranteeing game time, which you can’t do.
“All these things come into the equation, sometimes logistics come into the equation – sometimes people don’t want to uproot and move from wherever they’re from.
“There are so many moving parts.
“It really isn’t like Football Manager where you click a couple of buttons, you put his wages in and the next minute he flies in and he’s at the club.
“There is so much that goes on that can affect it.”
Expectation can sometimes be the source of frustration for the PNE boss.
Despite efforts made in the transfer market, managers will never get all of their targets.
Neil feels that no matter what happens during the transfer window, it is the manager that comes into question, even if the efforts were there to try and bring more players in.
“The simple fact is you’d be judged on that,” said Neil said.
“There’s one thing I’ve learned as a manager, certainly since I’ve come to England, because when I was in Scotland we had no money anyway so it didn’t really matter.
“The transfer window could have been open all year – it wouldn’t have made any difference!
“But what I’ve learned since I’ve come down here is throughout the window, you can bang a drum about getting signings in and all the rest of it, but when that window shuts, nobody gives a monkeys about what you have done and what you haven’t done.
“It doesn’t make any difference.
“As a coach, as a manager, you need to fight tooth and nail to get as much in to help you as you possibly can in that period.
“After that, it’s on you and if you don’t have enough, you’re the one getting judged.”