Preston North End no pushovers when it comes to holding on to Alex Neil

Alex Neil enjoys a pre-match brew at The Valley before Preston's game against Charlton
Alex Neil enjoys a pre-match brew at The Valley before Preston's game against Charlton

It should not come as a surprise that Preston North End boss Alex Neil attracts attention from elsewhere, after all he’s been doing a good job at Deepdale since his arrival 27 months ago.

The fact that other clubs have fluttered their eyelids in his direction should be seen as a compliment, but it is rather annoying when they do.

Preston manager Alex Neil at The Valley, ahead of the game against Charlton

Preston manager Alex Neil at The Valley, ahead of the game against Charlton

In April, West Bromwich Albion wanted him, then in the last few days it has been Stoke City courting Neil.

You could understand a temptation on Neil’s part when Albion came knocking, with the Baggies nailed-on almost for a play-off place.

He was persuaded to stay and signed a new three-year contract to smooth that process along.

Stoke, I would argue, are a different kettle of fish.

Bottom of the table and having now dispensed with two managers in the last 10 months.

They looked at Neil and his CV and clearly saw him as someone who could turn their fortunes around.

On Saturday though, they found that North End can be a tough nut to crack.

Early that afternoon it was claimed by a national radio station that Neil would be taking over.

Eight hours, a terse phone call and two press releases later, Preston had kept their man.

Although Neil began to get linked with the Potters on Friday, within a few hours of Nathan Jones being sacked, it was only on Saturday that things boiled up.

The ‘breaking news’ put out on the wireless actually coincided with the North End playing squad and staff arriving at Preston Station to catch their train to London for the Charlton game.

It surprised everyone, not least the players who an hour or so earlier had gone through their paces under Neil’s watchful eye.

The train probably hadn’t reached Warrington before North End put out a strongly worded statement to point out Stoke hadn’t been given permission to talk to Neil.

Furthermore, permission would not be granted and there would be a complaint made to the EFL.

Strong words indeed but it needed to be backed-up by action.

That is understood to have come in the form of a meeting between Neil and Peter Ridsdale at the team hotel on Saturday evening.

By the end of that, Neil was staying and the focus was back on preparing for the Charlton game.

A statement put out at 10pm on Saturday night said that Neil had ‘reiterated his commitment to the football club and the contract he signed’.

Should PNE maintain their push at the top end of the table in the month ahead, it could well be situations similar to this arise.

It happened when David Moyes was in charge, Billy Davies too – two managers in a similar mould to Neil.

Twice in six months now North End had shown their determination to keep hold of Neil and for that deserve a great deal of credit.

Ridsdale and the man he answers to, PNE owner Trevor Hemmings, can be very tough cookies.