Departed Preston boss Alex Neil seemed resigned to his fate after Luton defeat

Preston North End called time on Alex Neil yesterday and have entrusted his back room staff to halt their slide down the Championship table.

Monday, 22nd March 2021, 9:14 am
Updated Monday, 22nd March 2021, 9:16 am

Neil’s stay at Deepdale came to a halt eight matches before the end of his fourth season in charge.

Three defeats on the spin saw the axe fall, the last of those being Saturday’s 1-0 reverse to Luton – the Hatters scoring seven minutes from time to inflict a 20th league loss of the season on PNE.

His long-time coach Frankie McAvoy has been put in interim charge for the rest of the season.

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Alex Neil during Preston's game against Luton Town

Neil’s exit is the only change to the staff, with McAvoy to work alongside Steve Thompson, goalkeeper coach Mike Pollitt and Paul Gallagher.

The 39-year-old was told of the decision at lunchtime yesterday, with the news made public at 3pm.

It didn’t come as much of a surprise, Neil downbeat and almost seemingly resigned to his fate as he conducted his post-match press conference after the Luton defeat.

Tellingly, he conceded that the upheaval in January when eight players came in and eight left, had left him not knowing his best side.

Neil said: “People talk about you knowing your best team and I used to get criticised for having my best team and playing it more often than people thought I should have done.

“If I’m being brutally honest at the moment, I haven’t got a Scooby-Doo what my best team is.

“What I get from one week to the next, God knows.

“With your best team you know what you are getting from week in, week out.

“At the moment we are nowhere near that.”

The decision to hand the reins to McAvoy came as a surprise to some PNE fans.

Interestingly, the interim role is one of head coach rather than the manager title which Neil and all of his North End predecessors held.

McAvoy first joined forces with Neil at Hamilton.

The 53-year-old followed him down to Norwich in 2015 and then to PNE in July 2017.

Peter Ridsdale, advisor to North End owner Trevor Hemmings, says McAvoy will have the chance to claim the job permanently.

Other names have been put in the frame by the bookies though. Former Preston players Michael Appleton and Gareth Ainsworth currently with Lincoln and Wycombe respectively, are attracting bets, while Neil Harris, Eddie Howe and Chris Wilder are in the list of runners and riders.

Ridsdale said: “We need some points and when we get those we can take a breath and see what we will do next.”

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