Neil’s top-flight promotion caught the Lilywhites’ eye

Alex Neil
Alex Neil
Share this article

Alex Neil was starting work at Deepdale later today after Preston North End landed their first-choice target.

What put Neil top of their list was the Premier League promotion he had on his CV, having guided Norwich City to the top flight two years ago.

That is something which the Lilywhites hope he can repeat with them.

Neil was announced as PNE boss yesterday teatime, with him due to meet the media this afternoon.

He will oversee his first training session tomorrow, then have a watching brief at Friday’s pre-season friendly with Bamber Bridge.

On Saturday, Neil will be on the plane to Ireland for North End’s training camp at Fota Island.

An immediate task for the 36-year-old is to assess the squad he has at his disposal.

An area of the squad which is in need of bolstering is the centre of defence.

PNE had targets in mind when Simon Grayson was in charge and Neil could come up with other possibilities.

With skipper Tom Clarke ruled out until the New Year by injury and Alex Baptiste back at Middlesbrough, at least one more body is needed.

Neil is familiar with two of the squad he inherits.

He managed Declan Rudd at Norwich, while he was a team-mate of Stevie May when the striker had a loan spell with Hamilton.

It was at Hamilton where Neil started his career as a manager and soon impressed, taking them to the Scottish Premiership.

His work with the Accies caught the eye of Norwich who appointed him in early 2015.

North End have kept the backroom staff in place to work with Neil.

First-team coach Steve Thompson, keeper coach Alan Kelly, physio Matt Jackson and fitness coach Tom Little are highly thought of at North End and continuity is seen as important.

There is the scope for Neil to bring in another coach, with Glynn Snodin having gone with Simon Grayson to Sunderland.

Neil said: “I’ve looked at this opportunity and seen that the club has made progress for four years running and I am looking forward to trying to continue that progress.

“I have been involved in a lot of big games in a short space of time and hopefully we can be involved in a lot more big games here.

“Taking over a job in this situation means we have a confident squad that have been performing well over the last couple of seasons.

“This will not be a task of trying to lift the players, they have shown they are a good team and they can compete at this level and my job is to come in and try and help them improve as individuals and improve us as a club.”