It’s a whole new ball game admits Preston North End boss Alex Neil

Preston North End manager Alex Neil says he will not be able to approach the return to training like a pre-season campaign because of the safety restrictions placed on the sessions.

By Dave Seddon
Wednesday, 20th May 2020, 8:00 am

The Lilywhites are due to return to training on Monday, 12 weeks on from their last game against QPR.

That is much longer than the break players usually get in the summer, and normally a pre-season of five or six weeks would be needed to get the players back match-fit.

These are not normal times though, the return to training coming on the back of the long shutdown due to Covid-19.

Striker Sean Maguire in action against Hull City in February – PNE’s last victory before lockdown

Nine games of the season remain in the Championship in which North End will be chasing a play-off place.

In an interview with PNE’s official website, Neil said: “We have been told to limit the contact we have with the players.

“In pre-season season we would normally do double sessions and the lads would have a rest in between.

“We can’t do that because there is nowhere for them to rest – we can’t use the training ground buildings or we have to limit our time in there.

“So we will probably have to do it as one hit, one session each day.

“What we won’t want to do is over-cook it because you are only getting them for a limited amount of time.”

If the plan remains for the Championship to restart on June 13, Neil would have just less than three weeks to get the squad back in shape.

All Championship players and those staff who have contact with them will be tested for Covid-19 at the back end of this week prior to clubs going back on Monday.

Testing will then be carried out twice a week on an ongoing basis.

Training to start with will see players divided into small groups, with those groups working apart.

Only closer to the restart of the season will the players be allowed more contact.

Said Neil: “We have put a three-week plan in place.

“We are restricted in terms of the time frame and we have to adhere to the guidelines.

“The testing has to be done, policies followed and we’ve got social distancing.

“We’ve got to get the lads ready for Championship matches against that background and that is not including any of the concerns the players might have and how mentally they are coping with the situation.”

The majority of clubs in the Championship seem willing to try and restart the season, although Hull City have written to the EFL urging that the season be voided.

The Tigers were the last team PNE beat on February 22, goals from Paul Gallagher and Alan Browne delivering three points at Deepdale.