Dealing with speculation is a lesson learned for Preston boss Alex Neil

Preston North End manager Alex Neil
Preston North End manager Alex Neil

Alex Neil thinks he handled a second wave of speculation about his Preston North End future better than he did the first and the result was there to see on the pitch.

PNE’s 1-0 win at Charlton yesterday sent them top of the Championship, victory at The Valley coming in the wake of him being heavily linked with the Stoke City job.

That was speculation which was only knocked on the head late on Saturday night when the squad and staff had arrived in London.

It is the second time Neil has had admiring glances cast in his direction, with West Bromwich Albion attempting to lure him to the Hawthorns in April. North End suffered a big dip in form around the time of Albion sniffing around and Neil was extremely anxious to avoid a repeat of that.

Neil said: “The West Brom one affected everything.

“We struggled to win a game after that having been on a great run.

“From that moment we were affected by it and I was very conscious that I didn’t want that to happen this time.

“I can’t control speculation but what I can do, unlike the West Bromwich one which I have learned from, is put a statement out to put it to bed.

“I’m Preston North End manager, I love being here, I love working with the players and we have cracked on.”

On Saturday, PNE put out two statements – the first in response to claims by a radio station that Neil was going to be appointed Stoke boss.

It stated that no approach had been made through official channels for Neil and that if one came, it would be refused. There was also the threat of a complaint to the EFL over an illegal approach for Neil.

At 10pm, Preston then put out a second statement saying Neil had ‘reiterated his commitment’ to the club and the contract he signed in April.

After yesterday’s win which saw Paul Gallagher net the winner from the penalty spot in the 58th minute, Neil added: “I have been a manager seven or eight years now.

“I’ve learned that when you are hot you are hot, when you are not you are not.

“If a couple of results went against us, people would be saying I’m hopeless!

“I know what I’m doing, the lads work their socks off for me every day.

“We just want to continue that and see where it takes us.”

Neil felt victory at Charlton was thoroughly deserved even if the winning margin was a slender one.

He said: “I thought we were good value for the win.

“We were the better team, created the better chances and our set-up really dealt with Charlton’s shape.

“When they changed shape in the second half we had prepped for that and we coped with that too.”