Preston boss Alex Neil is pleased to see stars feature on international stage, but is always anxious about their condition on return

Preston manager Alex Neil admits to having mixed feelings about players being away on international duty.

Saturday, 21st November 2020, 8:00 am

Although delighted for them to be recognised by their country, there is an anxiety about the condition in which they return.

Neil will be without Alan Browne for today’s meeting with Sheffield Wednesday at Deepdale after the midfielder tested positive for Covid-19 while on international duty with the Republic of Ireland.

Daniel Johnson and Sean Maguire were away during the break, Johnson being far more active than Maguire was.

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Preston North End's Daniel Johnson made his international debut for Jamaica against Saudi Arabia, played again and scored

Johnson won his first two caps for Jamaica in a double header against Saudi Arabia.

He scored in the second of those games which ended in a 2-1 win for the Reggae Boyz.

Maguire got just four minutes of action in the three games the Republic of Ireland played in the break.

That short spell on the pitch came at the end of Wednesday’s 0-0 draw with Bulgaria in Dublin.

Praising the contribution of Johnson to Jamaica’s cause but also expressing his relief to have him back in the country, Neil said: “It was great for DJ and nice for him to get the recognition.

“I would have much preferred him to get some rest but that is what happens when you have international players.

“We have to make sure he gets some rest and we get him as fresh as possible.

“DJ played 90 minutes and 70 minutes in the two games, on top of what he has churned out for us.

“He missed the first five or six games of the season but his workload since has gone through the roof.”

Neil at least didn’t have Emil Riis away over the last couple of weeks.

He stayed with North End instead of going away with the Denmark Under-21s.

It is domestic football all the way now until March and PNE start a run of 12 games in six weeks with the Owls’ visit.

Neil sees it as a demanding spell but potentially a rewarding one.

“If we can get some good momentum, go on a good run and keep as many people fit as possible, you can really push yourself up the table,” said Neil.

“Equally if you are missing a couple of players because the games are so close together, a standard one or two game absence could turn into four, five or six games out.

“We’ll use the squad and the rule change with the substitutes will allow us to freshen it up in games.

“With 12 games over the next few weeks we are going to need as many of the lads fit and available.

“We are making progress with the injuries, getting into a better shape and potentially we might have a couple back.”