Preston North End boss Alex Neil is ready for start of the new season

North End manager Alex Neil
North End manager Alex Neil

Preston manager Alex Neil is pleased to have reached the closing stages of pre-season and is ready for the ‘needle’ of the proper stuff.

The Lilywhites play their final friendly at Oldham on Saturday and then have a clear week on the training ground building up to the opening game against QPR.

Neil said: “Everyone here is looking forward to the start of the season.

“To me, pre-season is a means to an end and what I look forward to is the pressure that a Saturday or a Tuesday brings.

“Everything is on the line then, the expectation is on you and there is a bit of needle in there.

“That is what you manage and coach for.

“Yes, the pre-season friendlies serve a purpose but the true test comes on the first day of the season and then every week after that.”

In terms of selection, Neil likens pre-season friendlies to a poker game, in terms of not giving away everything about his favoured starting XI.

The Scot has mixed and matched his teams in the five warm-up games to date and he might not want to show his full hand at Oldham.

Said Neil: “At the moment I’m playing poker and bluffing.

“You wouldn’t put out what you deem to be your best starting XI all the way through pre-season.

“You have to give everyone the opportunity, football is about opportunities, giving people a chance.

“We’ll look at the Oldham game next, that is the last one before we get going.”

PNE have kept the injuries to a minimum over the course of pre-season.

Josh Earl missed the AFC Fylde and Cobh Ramblers games, skipper Tom Clarke sitting out the Fylde clash.

Tom Barkhuizen and Ben Pearson came off injured against West Ham, Pearson returning to face Burnley.

Barkhuizen was due back in training on Tuesday and could feature at Oldham.