PNE boss might have to shuffle pack over Christmas period

Josh Harrop could get his chance to impress from the start over the Christmas period
Josh Harrop could get his chance to impress from the start over the Christmas period

Alex Neil is ready to rotate his squad during the Christmas and New Year period.

Saturday’s Deepdale clash with Nottingham Forest is the first of four games in nine days for in-form Preston.

Neil has largely only tinkered with his side but knows there might need to be more players used than in other parts of the season in order to keep his squad sharp.

It could open the door for players such as Josh Harrop and Daryl Horgan who have impressed off the bench in recent weeks.

After Forest, trips to Barnsley and Cardiff follow on Boxing Day and December 29 respectively, before PNE return home to face Middlesbrough on New Year’s Day.

“We know what to expect because we’re used to doing it each Christmas,” Neil said. “The preparation is certainly not the same as usual as we’re doing seven days’ work in two days really.

“That’s as much about recovery, physically and mentally, as it is about getting them prepared.

“They’ll have a lot of content to take in, in terms of each opposition, so mentally they’ve got a lot of things to process.

“Physically they’re going to be tired with games in quick succession. We’ve managed to handle the load so far but we might have to rotate a little bit more than normal and hopefully we’ve got enough bodies to do that.”

The players are set to train on Christmas Day this year with Neil confident he has got the balance right between work, rest and family time.

“The lads have got lives,” the PNE boss said.

“It’s important when you’re a sportsman of any kind you want to feel relaxed and at ease and enjoy your work and feel well rested in your mind as much as your legs. I’ve struck this balance for quite a number of years in terms of giving players enough time off and working them hard enough to make sure they’re at optimum levels.

“It’s been a recipe that’s worked for me in the past.

“I speak to some of the senior lads who have got families because it’s important they get enough time with them.

“We’ve talked about the Christmas period and everyone’s relatively pleased.”

As well as on the pitch, the workload is also intense behind the scenes.

“A lot of things are done when the players aren’t here,” Neil said. “Me and the staff will be in every day, whereas the players will have days off to recover. I’ve got a lot of games to watch in a short space of time.

“It’s difficult. I’ll have some time where I can switch off but there are a lot of games coming up and me and the staff are well aware of the hours we’ll have to put in to get all the work done.”