Preston North End boss Alex Neil has no room for sentiment against former club Norwich City

Todd Cantwell celebrates scoring Norwich's goal in New Year's Day's 1-1 home draw with Crystal Palace
Todd Cantwell celebrates scoring Norwich's goal in New Year's Day's 1-1 home draw with Crystal Palace

Alex Neil has fond memories of his time as Norwich City boss but this weekend he hopes that Preston can dump them out of the FA Cup.

Neil managed the Canaries between January 2015 and March 2017, taking them up to the Premier League but only lasting a season in the top flight.

When it looked like they were floundering in their attempts to go straight back up, Neil paid with his job.

Despite the sack, there is no ill will on Neil’s part towards the East Anglia club.

He was grateful to them for giving him the chance to manage in English football.

Norwich took him from Hamilton Academical in the Scottish Premier League, which was a gamble.

That paid off with them promoted four months later through the play-offs.

Geographically, Norwich are stuck out on a limb, a fact Neil thinks can both help and hinder.

“Where they are is great in one sense and not great in another,” said Neil.

“It’s difficult to get out and see games because you are so far away from places.

“That sometimes made it tricky to recruit players as well because they didn’t want to be detached from the central hubs such as London and Manchester.

“Where it helped is that the whole community gets behind them – everyone in Norwich, in the main, supports Norwich.

“That can be a real strength, particularly when you are doing well. The good feeling generated can be very powerful.

“They used it to their advantage last year and we used it the year we went up.”

Norwich come to Deepdale as the Premier League’s bottom club, seven points shy of safety.

After a Boxing Day defeat at Aston Villa, they picked up draws against Tottenham and Crystal Palace at home.

Against Palace they were five minutes away from all three points thanks to Todd Cantwell’s fourth-minute goal.

But Connor Wickham came off the bench to net an 85th-minute equaliser for the Londoners.

They are without a win in their last eight games, their last victory being a 2-0 success at Everton in November.

Which players they bring with them to Lancashire remains to be seen.

After the Christmas and New Year schedule, it could well be that Canaries boss Daniel Farke rests some of his key men.

Teemu Pukki is their leading scorer this season with nine goals, a decent return for the Finnish striker in a struggling side.

He got 30 goals in last season’s promotion campaign, including two against PNE.

Cantwell, 21, has come through the Norwich youth system and development squad to become a key player for Farke’s men.

He has scored six goals, including one in the 3-2 win over Manchester City in September.

Whether Cantwell plays against PNE ahead of a visit to Manchester United the week after, remains to be seen.