Preston North End boss Alex Neil admits he’s surprised crowd will be allowed to watch game at Norwich City

Alex Neil is pleased but also surprised that Preston North End will be playing in front of fans tomorrow for the first time in more than six months.

Friday, 18th September 2020, 8:00 am

The clash with Norwich at Carrow Road (3pm) is part of a pilot scheme to get supporters back in grounds.

Ten games were initially selected by the EFL to have 1,000 fans in attendance but time restraints have seen three clubs having to decline.

PNE manager Neil said: “I have been one of the advocates of wanting to get fans back in as soon as possible.

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Sean Maguire will hope to start Preston’s game at Norwich tomorrow

“However, things are changing in normal life, there seems to be a bit of a spike again and I’m actually quite surprised they are continuing with introducing fans.

“But we would all like it back to normal as quickly as possible, providing it is safe to do so.”

If the pilot games do help smooth the return of fans to games – October is the target for a limited return –Neil hopes they are successful.

He has found the behind closed doors games a ‘bizarre’ experience since football’s restart in June.

“Having no fans does take away from the match, it is bizarre,” said Neil.

“It has been eerie in the grounds, I’ve been in football most of my life and it is really strange not to have a crowd.

“Norwich will have 1,000 fans tomorrow and it would be nice if it was at Deepdale with 1,000 of our fans.

“We have to start somewhere in terms of getting people back to football.”

In terms of the football, Neil takes PNE to East Anglia in good heart following the 2-1 win over Derby County in the Carabao Cup.

That result was the boost needed in the wake of defeat on the opening day against Swansea and the speculation surrounding Daniel Johnson. There were a number of players who played well at Derby to push themselves into contention for a start tomorrow.

Tom Barkhuizen and Johnson, who both came off the bench to score against the Rams, are likely starters.

Sean Maguire could feature after leading the attack well at Derby, the striker having been on the bench last week.

Neil said: “Players have pushed their way into contention from the other night which is good.

“The fact we were playing Derby, a team in our division, carries more weight than if we had been playing a League Two team.

“I thought the lads did particularly well at Derby and I have got some decisions to make, we have got some good options in certain areas.

“Playing Norwich will be slightly different for me than the other games, purely because I know the people involved with the club and those who own it.”