Alex Neil on Preston North End’s expectations for the season
Preston manager Alex Neil is unsure about what his team can accomplish this season in the Championship.
After presiding over play-off tilts in the past two seasons, the North End manager is guarded about making any major statements of intent in the openings weeks of this campaign.
PNE finished just one place outside the play-offs in Neil’s first season in charge at Deepdale.
Last season was not quite as successful as they ended up below mid-table, although there was a period when they flirted seriously with the top six.
However, having lost striker Callum Robinson in a big-money move to Premier League newcomers Sheffield United in the summer, there is a strong argument to suggest North End have been weakened. That has been exacerbated by the serious injury sustained by centre forward Louis Moult during Saturday’s 3-2 defeat at Swansea City.
Neil did manage to bolster his strikeforce towards the end of the summer transfer window when he snapped up Aston Villa man Andre Green on loan.
And veteran former England international David Nugent should offer a good option once he is fully fit.
While happy with the strength in depth at his disposal, Neil admits there is a certain ‘suck it and see’ feeling to this season.
“It’s hard to say what our expectations are,” said Neil. “It’s really difficult to say.
“We lost Callum Robinson in the summer so I don’t know, I really don’t know.
“You have got to have a lot of things to get in the play-offs. Consistency is one, you’ve got to have hopefully a decent injury record so you don’t lose key players. Right away we have lost Louis Moult, who was looking like he was going to do well for us.
“It makes my job more difficult naturally.”
The departure of Robinson certainly leaves a huge void in the squad, especially because of the source of goals he provided.
The former Villa player – who scored 13 goals last season despite missing a large chunk of it through injury – was signed by the Blades in a deal reportedly worth £8m.
“He’s a big loss,” said Neil. “When you think he’s playing in a team in the Premier League which totally dominated Crystal Palace at the weekend.
“Callum guaranteed us double figures in goals and to get someone who would guarantee you double-figure goals at this level costs you seven, eight or nine million pounds, which we haven’t got.
“He’s difficult to replace but what it does is give somebody else an opportunity.”