Sean Maguire can be Preston North End’s talisman this season
The Irishman’s presence was missed for a large chunk of last season due to a recurring hamstring injury.
He stayed fit for just over a month before he broke down again while on international duty, which kept him out until the new year.
Since then Maguire has enjoyed a good run free of injury.
He ended up making 31 appearances last season – making an important contribution as North End flirted seriously with the play-offs before falling away towards the end.
The 25-year-old – who has four Republic of Ireland caps to his name –looks to have got the bit between his teeth at the start of this season.
He has featured in every league game so far – bar the win over Stoke City when a bout of concussion kept him on the sidelines.
He scored his first goal of the season in the 3-0 victory over Wigan in PNE’s opening home game and was instrumental on Saturday as Neil’s men got the better of Sheffield Wednesday 2-1 at Deepdale.
Maguire won both penalty kicks which were converted by Daniel Johnson and afterwards Neil heaped praise on the diminutive forward, describing him as the difference between the two sides.
“We have played Sean up front and he’s done well, but the last couple of games, we have played him off the left and he’s done better,” said Neil. “I think once Sean gets front-facing and gets at people, he’s a real threat.
“He’s got a low centre of gravity, he’s strong and quick.
“Like I says he’s got a goal in him, he’s aggressive in the air and brave for being small.
“I think the part of his game that we have done a lot of work on and probably something which continues to improve, is his link-up play with his back to goal.
“That is probably an area of his game which he needs to get better at.
“But I have seen massive improvements in Sean since he come here in terms of understanding the game, experience and he’s been really unfortunate with injuries as well which has held him back.
“As a manager, Sean is a fantastic player to have because he trains hard every day, works his socks off and never causes me a problem at all.
“He can play in a variety of positions as well, which is good too.”