Exclusive Sean Gregan column

Jordan Hugill looks on as Sheffield United goalkeeper Simon Moore gathers the ball on the deck
Jordan Hugill looks on as Sheffield United goalkeeper Simon Moore gathers the ball on the deck

Preston have found their form over the last few weeks and will head into the Christmas games with confidence.

They are just two points off the top six and are up there in the form table too, their unbeaten run having stretched to six games after the 1-0 win over Sheffield United on Saturday.

Unbeaten runs can be slightly misleading at times because they contain a lot of draws within them.

But North End have won four and drawn two since the last international break and at any level of football, that is a pretty good return.

There have been three clean sheets in that run which I’m sure Alex Neil will have been delighted with.

Jordan Hugill found the net again to sink Sheffield United, getting on the end of a very good cross to volley in.

I’m sure there will be lots of speculation about him as the transfer window nears but he has to stay focused on the job at North End.

If they can keep hold of Hugill in January, it will be a big boost for them as they tackle the second half of the season.

The Blades team which Preston beat was going great guns until a few weeks ago.

Their fortunes of late are a reverse of what has gone on at PNE and just shows how things can change quickly.

Perhaps United were playing with momentum of their promotion last season and their confidence has just dipped a little bit.

As always, Christmas will be a busy, and also a key stage, of the season.

Preston face Nottingham Forest on Saturday, head to Barnsley on Boxing Day, then it’s Cardiff on December 29 and Middlesbrough on New Year’s Day.

A decent points return from that lot would put them in a good position.

When you have got games close together like that, it is often a case of recovering in between and going again.

You don’t get a great deal of time on the training pitch, it’s more a case of getting the legs going again.

I always used to enjoy playing over Christmas – 
it is something which 
players are brought up on in this country.

It became second nature to train on Christmas Day and play on Boxing Day.

Different managers had different approaches to how they treated players over the Christmas period.

One year at Preston, David Moyes gave us Christmas Day at home but we had to report in at 6pm for training.

We sat in the dressing room at Deepdale, then Moyes walked in and told us to go home!

During the build-up to Christmas, most clubs will allow their players a night out.

Nowadays, teams will have their party away from their own town because you are never more than a few seconds away from being on social media.

Myself and Mark Rankine had that brush with the law after PNE’s Christmas party in the late 90s.

All I could think about when sat in the back of the police van was what Moyes would say to us the next day when we got out. It helped that we won our next game!