Preston North End manager Alex Neil a wanted man once again as Stoke City show an interest in him

Preston manager Alex Neil
Preston manager Alex Neil

Preston North End boss Alex Neil is a wanted man again, with Stoke City wanting him to swap the top end of the Championship for the bottom.

The Potters sacked Nathan Jones on Friday morning after just two wins this season left them in the relegation zone.

Alex Neil with Ben Pearson and Tom Barkhuizen during Preston's win over Blackburn at Deepdale last week

Alex Neil with Ben Pearson and Tom Barkhuizen during Preston's win over Blackburn at Deepdale last week

Within a short time, Neil had been made the bookies' favourite to fill the vacancy after a flurry of bets on him.

It is the second time in six months that North End have had strong interest in their manager.

In April, West Bromwich Albion attempted to lure Neil to the Hawthorns and came close to doing so, only for Neil to stay at Deepdale and sign a new three-year contract.

That interest came at a time when PNE were still in with a shout of the play-offs and the speculation did derail those attempts.

So could history be repeating itself?

North End went second in the Championship after beating Blackburn Rovers last Saturday and return to action against Charlton Athletic at The Valley on Sunday lunchtime.

The job Neil is doing at Deepdale will obviously attract admirers, with him guiding Preston to their current lofty position on one of the division's smallest budgets.

In his first campaign in charge PNE finished seventh in the table, just two points behind the top six.

Last season, they recovered from a bad start to get within touching distance on the play-off places with six weeks remaining.

But North End finished poorly and during that form dip came West Brom's interest.

This season they have been very impressive, especially at Deepdale, and expectation levels are rising.

While Stoke are facing a relegation battle, this is only their second season back in the Championship after a decade's stay in the Premier League.

Their budget will obviously be far bigger than Preston's but if Neil is interested, he will have to weigh up some important factors.

The 38-year-old has often spoken of how he enjoys the simple line of command at Deepdale - he answers to Peter Ridsdale who in turn reports to owner Trevor Hemmings.

Although he works on a limited budget, Neil thrives on working on the training pitch with the squad and developing players.

The new contract he signed in April following West Brom's interest bumped up considerably the amount of compensation a club would have to pay for his services.

That might still not be much of an issue for Stoke if they take their interest beyond where it is now.

It could be an anxious few days for Preston supporters to see if the club can hang on to the best manager they have had in a good number of years.