“To say it is just another game isn’t true”: Alex Neil determined to give Preston fans bragging rights with Blackburn win
Alex Neil is looking forward to leading Preston into the derby battle with Blackburn in front of their biggest away support for years.
More than 7,300 North End fans will be at Ewood Park for tomorrow’s noon kick-off.
For PNE boss Neil, there is a deep sense of responsibility to send them home happy.
His aim is to see his side extend their unbeaten run to a 10th game and stay in touch with the pack of clubs chasing a play-off place.
Neil said: “I definitively feel a responsibility, I know what derbies are about.
“When I was at Hamilton, I don’t think we lost our derby to Motherwell – we gave them a few heavy beatings.
“At Norwich we never lost to Ipswich and since I’ve been here, we haven’t lost any of our local games.
“The responsibility to the fans is to try and make sure they aren’t going into their work and getting pelters for the rest of the week.
“I go into the game knowing I need to get it right as much as any other game.
“Certainly there is a lot more onus on me to make sure I don’t mess it up.
“I want to make sure our fans have the bragging rights.
“To sit here and say it is just another game isn’t true.
“We have to make sure that we put our best foot forward.
“For the fans, these are the biggest games.”
North End took 6,984 fans to Blackburn in 2016 and 6,005 the following year.
To have gone through the 7,000 mark and beyond in ticket sales is impressive to say the least.
Their initial allocation was 7,499, with the hosts upping that this week to 7,681.
Tickets will remain on sale until 5pm tonight.
As Neil referenced, PNE’s record in local games has been good under his stewardship.
“Our derby record has been very good and we want that to continue,” said Neil.
“This is a crucial game for a variety of reasons.
“If we want to maintain our challenge, we need to win.
“When most of the derby games have come along, we have mainly been in form.”
On the fitness front, Neil was given a boost earlier this week by Callum Robinson and Louis Moult returning to training after injury.
Robinson last played in the 4-1 win over Blackburn at the end of November, with Moult’s last involvement coming in December.
Tomorrow’s game might come too soon for them, Neil mindful in particular that Robinson is coming back from the first major injury of his career – he had surgery to repair a damaged hamstring tendon.
Said Neil: “Young players don’t know their bodies as well as the older ones. With the younger lads, you have to take more of a lead with them when they come back.”