Exclusive Sean Gregan Preston North End column: Better times ahead?

Confidence can make or break a team and hopefully Preston have now got plenty of it after two good results before the international break.

A draw from a tough game at Aston Villa and a derby win over Wigan has made things look a lot better than they had been a couple of weeks ago.

Sean Maguire is away with the Republic of Ireland

Sean Maguire is away with the Republic of Ireland

Admittedly, North End are not out of the woods yet but hopefully they can keep moving up the table.

They will have taken a lot of belief from the last two results and perhaps from one or two others before that, when they didn’t play too badly but were beaten.

Every manager will have his own way of approaching international breaks and I’m sure what Alex Neil will have been especially keen to focus on is the clean sheet against Wigan.

He will have gone through it with the squad, looked at how it was achieved and where the mistakes were 
cut out.

And no doubt there will have been work done on the training pitch to replicate what they did against Wigan.

In my experience, things get done well when there is repetition.

The more used you are to doing something, the better you tend to get.

Look at the Arsenal back four from George Graham’s era, when ‘1-0 to the Arsenal’ was the common chant from the supporters.

Graham would drill them morning and afternoon to make sure they knew their jobs and that paid off.

I went through spells in my career when the team I was playing for had a patch of leaking goals.

The way to put things right is to work through the problems, find a solution.

Often it is a case of going back to basics – it sounds boring but that tends to work more often than not. PNE return to action at Hull City next Saturday and against the bottom club that is surely a chance to build on the last two results.

Hopefully they will get the lads on international duty back in one piece.

Sean Maguire is with the Republic of Ireland squad, as is Callum Robinson and Alan Browne.

You just hope Maguire can benefit from a spell of training and return with some more fitness under his belt.

His record shows that he will be an important part of Neil’s plans this season.

On the international front, it was strange to say the least to watch England’s 0-0 draw in Croatia played in an empty stadium due to the punishment imposed by UEFA on the hosts.

No one can argue against the punishment for Croatia but why should England have suffered too?

Perhaps the better thing to do would have been to have reversed the fixture and play it in England, banning Croatia fans from attending.

As it was, the atmosphere came across as being like one you get at a reserve game, with the only noise being the shouts from players and from the coaches.

You had a couple of lads making their England debuts and it was such a shame that their families couldn’t be there to see it in person.