Sean Gregan’s exclusive column: Win at Charlton was key amid the Alex Neil speculation

Preston North End manager Alex Neil
Preston North End manager Alex Neil

Alex Neil being linked with the Stoke City job in the build-up to Preston’s game at Charlton was a distraction they could have done without but they handled it very well.

When managers do well they will get attention from other clubs, that is how the industry works.

In my time at North End, we used to get the same sort of thing with David Moyes.

He seemed to get linked with other jobs quite often but after a while you got used to it and got on with things.

This is the second time Neil has attracted interest from elsewhere, with West Bromwich Albion trying to get him last season.

The fact that Preston have kept hold of their man on both occasions, shows to me that they have plenty of fight about them and importantly that Neil is settled here.

Some jobs it might be easy to walk away from but Neil clearly likes what he is doing at Deepdale.

One day, there might be an offer from the Premier League that comes in.

The best way to fight that off is for North End to be in the top flight themselves!

Watching the Charlton game, I thought PNE were well worth their win and it should have been by a bigger margin if the truth be told.

In stoppage-time Tom Barkhuizen got clear and had tunnel vision when it came to having a shot.

If he’d got his head up, he would have seen Ben Pearson was free in the middle and waiting for a square pass.

Had Charlton gone on to equalise, I think there might have been a tea-cup or two launched in his direction by Neil in the dressing room.

For long spells of the game, Preston looked well in control and I liked how they kept the ball in the Charlton half and were prepared to play there.

All that was missing was a second goal to make the last few minutes that bit more comfortable for the fans.

It’s back to Deepdale now, with Huddersfield paying a visit. They’ve picked up in the last couple of months but let’s be right, they couldn’t have got any worse could they?

The new manager Danny Cowley has done well there and started to get the best out of the squad.

Huddersfield have still got players left from the Premier League, so they are no mugs.

North End can approach the game with confidence though, based on how well they have been doing.

Although their time at the top of division was just over 24 hours, being there must have been a proud moment.

There are some big hitters in the Championship who have spent lots of money.

The aim for North End is to stick around in that top group of clubs.

At the moment, league placings don’t matter too much but you want to stay up there and accumulate points on a consistent basis.

After Huddersfield there is yet another international break to get through.

It is quite important in the fact it’s the last one until late in March.

In between is four months of solid football, so putting the feet up and resting in the break will be important.