PNE boss Alex Neil challenges side to push on after ‘remarkable’ season

Alex Neil says Preston set themselves high standards this season and the challenge is already set to try and better those next term.

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Having finished seventh in the Championship, the next step is to push into the top six and maintain the upward trend of the last few years.

While a family holiday is next on Neil’s agenda, already plans are being put in place by the PNE boss for 2018/19.

Neil met all of the players individually at Springfields on Tuesday to talk about next season.

They are off until June 28 when pre-season training starts.

Preston midfielder Paul Gallagher is out of contract this summer

Preston midfielder Paul Gallagher is out of contract this summer

Said Neil: “If we improve on what we have done this year, then we are in the play-offs minimum.

“That is still a massive step to make, to get into the upper echelons of the division. If you look at the six teams who finished above us and you look at their squads, most of their players have played in the Premier League.

“We haven’t got too many who have done that, it’s very different.

“But we are not far off , we have set standards this year and we have to maintain them and grow them.

“That is easier said than done because I think we have had a remarkable year.

“To improve is going to be some challenge for us but it is a challenge we will be setting down for each other.”

Neil points to the fact that the PNE squad will be that bit older and wiser next term.

He says this season’s side was a relatively new one and they will have benefited from a campaign playing together.

“This team was a new one in many respects,” said Neil.

“I know people say this was a squad which Simon had but a lot of players weren’t here when Simon was.

“If you think about it, Sean Maguire, Josh Harrop and Darnell Fisher were new, so was Declan Rudd, while Ben Davies wasn’t here.

“There are mainstays in the squad who have been here for a while but this is a new team to a certain extent.

“What they have achieved so far is excellent and now we need to go again.”

One of Neil’s jobs for the close season is sorting out Paul Gallagher’s future.

The midfielder is out of contract next month and has been offered a one-year deal.

It is believed Gallagher would like longer and there could be talking to do.

With John Welsh having been released, another chunk of experience would be lost if Gallagher was to depart.

The 33-year-old made 22 starts and 10 appearances in the league this season.

He came off the bench in Sunday’s 2-1 win over Burton.

Also out of contract this summer are young keepers Mathew Hudson and Callum Roberts.