‘Was there a cup draw last night or something?’, Ben Pearson casually enquired as he walked past the Press pack after arriving at Preston’s Springfields training ground on Thursday morning.
There was more than a hint of a smirk on the face of the North End midfielder, as he wandered into the dressing room alongside car-share companion Josh Harrop, who was laughing.
I think everybody connected with the club was still digesting the events of the night before, when North End were rewarded for their League Cup penalty shootout victory over Hull on Tuesday by being drawn against Premier League champions Manchester City at Deepdale in the third round.
Due to their exploits over the past few years and the style of football they have produced, Pep Guardiola’s men have been described as one of the best teams ever seen – certainly in English football.
So it’s going to be some night for the players and supporters when the Citizens arrive in town next month.
Being a former Manchester United youngster – and big Red Devils fan – I imagine the clash with City will be one for Pearson to savour.
And Harrop too, who also learned his trade growing up at Old Trafford.
I think what will be interesting is how Alex Neil will respond going head to head with Guardiola, who is seen by many as one of the greatest coaches on the planet.
Despite City boasting some of the best players in the world, Neil will take great time devising a tactical plan which could work in stopping the Sky Blues’ juggernaut.
Neil certainly has his own ideas on the game and while he admires the Spaniard, he is his own man and I get the feeling he won’t be overawed in the dug-out.
“I think as a coach you can learn from any other coach,” Neil said.
“There are always bits and pieces you can take away from other managers
“If you try to replicate somebody else, you’re almost trying to be an imposter and trying to be somebody else.
“You need to be yourself, but there are certain things that you can take from other coaches which may well help you.
“Pep’s career speaks for itself and we have had a couple of players from City in the past.
“But in terms of my dealings with Pep, they have been very, very limited.”
While there has been a buzz around Deepdale and beyond regarding the cup draw, thoughts of playing City must be put on the back burner, especially as PNE have an important trip to Nottingham Forest.
A first away win of the season at the City Ground will leave North End in great spirits before they head into the international break.
Despite being pointless away from home, having lost 1-0 to Millwall on the opening day and 3-2 at Swansea City a couple of weeks ago, optimism is still high, especially after the three terrific wins they have enjoyed at home which have propelled them into the top six.
I think the fact that North End have played well on their travels and were genuinely unlucky to return home empty-handed means that it is only a matter of time before they will pick up their first away point.
“I think performance-wise, we have done well,” Neil said. “Today is a big game for us. We want to try to add some more points to the board if we can before this break which will put us in a good position going into the next phase of games.”
l This week saw an outpouring of grief as Bury Football Club’s 125-year existence as a Football League club came grinding to a halt.
Beset by financial difficulties, the Shakers have not been able to fulfil their first five League One fixtures and the Football League finally lost patience on Tuesday when they expelled them after a takeover bid collapsed.
You would think Bury’s demise – together with Bolton’s struggles – would be a wake-up call for the rest of football, especially as these are clubs with rich histories. However, not long after Bury’s expulsion made headline news, they were soon replaced by the Champions League draw on Thursday – and the billions of pounds it will generate for the super power clubs of Europe.
The Premier League bandwagon will continue to roll, multi-millions will be paid out in transfer fees and players will earn ludicrous wages.
The fact that the people of Bury have lost one of their biggest community assets will soon be forgotten by the rest.
I think the saddest thing for the fans of Bury is that they have been expelled by the Football League – the same organisation which deemed their owner Steve Dale a fit and proper person to run a football club.