Exclusive Declan Rudd Preston North End column: Gaffer has blueprint to reach the Premier League

I have worked under the gaffer Alex Neil for a good number of years now – here and before at Norwich – and I can safely say he’s not changed one bit.

Celebrating our goal against Leeds with Darnell F isher
Celebrating our goal against Leeds with Darnell F isher

When he was handed the reins at Carrow Road, it was his first full manager’s job – obviously I know he has a successful time as player-manager at Hamilton in Scotland.

He came in at Norwich and straight away from day one, he set his stall out for what he wanted.

I haven’t seen much change in his philosophy of playing and that’s the good thing about the gaffer, the players know exactly how he wants to play

He gets his message across – he may change tactics from game to game – but you still go out there knowing exactly what he wants from you. I think that’s important.

It’s imperative that players go out on to the pitch with clear picture of how you need to go about affecting the game.

The one thing I have learned about the gaffer is that he is a winner and he wants to win every single game.

That is great for a player to be involved – you know that you’re never going to go into a game looking to park the bus or sitting behind the ball.

It doesn’t matter who we are playing, the gaffer always sets us up to go looking for the win, to score goals, and that’s why I think the lads have been thriving so far this season.

They have the confidence – instilled by the manager – that they can win every game. The gaffer knows what needs to be done – he got Norwich promoted from the Championship to the Premier League and he knows what it takes. I remember when he came in at Norwich, he had without doubt the best squad in the league, but we were massively underperforming.

He shook it up and in the second half of the season our form was unbelievable.

We reached the play-offs and beat Middlesbrough in the final at Wembley.

It is a completely difference scenario here at Preston – you could not have a more different dressing room to what he had at Norwich. But the fact that our squad here at Preston is a young one helps, it helps with the hunger and drive to be successful.

I have said this many times that this is the best dressing room that I’ve been involved in. Everybody gets on and there are certainly no cliques. It is really enjoyable to be part of. We all want to get this club in the Premier League.

I have had experience of playing in the top flight at Norwich and I want that again .

There is nothing better than turning up on matchday at places like Old Trafford, Anfield, Stamford Bridge and being part of the best league in the world, playing against the best players.

That is something you dream of as a lad and I had a taste of it – I am certainly striving to get back to it.

It has been a great start to the season for us and we want it to continue.

It just shows how far that we have come that we were disappointed to only come away with a point against Leeds United on Tuesday.

I think anybody who finishes above Marcelo Bielsa’s men this season will probably end up playing in the Premier League this season.

On a personal note, I have been pleased with the way I have performed over the first 13 games of the season. I think I have been solid and consistent.

As a goalkeeper you always analyse your own performance and I was a little bit disappointed with the goal I conceded against Reading on Saturday in the 98th minute.

It was gut-wrenching to lose it so late and as a goalkeeper you always want to pull your team out in those final moments. I look back at the goal from Matt Miazga’s goal as one I maybe should have done better with. I saw it late and it’s always hard to react, but the fact that I got something on it makes it harder. As a keeper, you think I should have been able to keep that out.

This weekend, we will be looking to keep our recent good record against derby rivals Blackburn Rovers going when they come to Deepdale.

I don’t think they have got the better of us since 2015 and we did the double over them last season. Players always enjoy playing in 
derby matches – the atmosphere is always that extra special.

We are well aware of what winning a match like that means to the supporters, but you have to make sure you keep a calm head.

If you get too wrapped up in the occasion, there is a danger you can forget the game plan so it’s important to stay composed.