Preston North End boss Alex Neil believes Championship will be tough to call

Preston North End kick-off the new season today with Alex Neil of the view that the Championship will be a tough one to call in 2018/19.

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Preston North End manager Alex Neil

Preston North End manager Alex Neil

Some clubs have splashed the cash in their bid to get to or return to the Premier League.

Others have come up against financial difficulties this summer, Birmingham for example having only just come out of a transfer embargo and limited by the Football League to what they can spend in the market.

North End perhaps fall into a middle ground having so far brought in five players using a modest budget.

For Neil’s men, the season starts with this afternoon’s Deepdale clash with Queens Park Rangers.

Neil said: “This division is always tough.

“Before a ball was kicked last season, everyone was thinking that the three clubs who had come down from the Premier League would be right back up there.

“Yet Sunderland ended up being relegated again.

“Anyone looking at their squad a year ago would never in a million years have said they would be go down.

“That is a great example of how the Championship is so unpredictable .

“If you take anything for granted or anything lightly, it will come back to bite you.

“We won’t do that, we know that we have to work as hard as ever to compete at this level.”

When finishing seventh last season, North End flew under the radar in terms of the attention they got outside of Deepdale.

It seems that more notice is being taken of them this time with some media publications having tipped Neil’s men to be in play-off contention.

Mind you, the opinion of some might have changed since the injuries suffered in the past week by Sean Maguire and Billy Bodin, with Maguire out for two months and Bodin for six months.

Neil is taking little notice of predictions, good or bad.

“I don’t really have a care in the world about what people outside of the club might think about myself and my team,” said Neil.

“What I do care about is what the players think and what the Preston fans think.

“Outside of that is not my responsibility.

“We have the belief in what we want to do.”

Neil feels North End are well equipped for the season, not withstanding the recent injuries and the desire to add to the squad before Thursday’s transfer deadline.

He said: “We’ve got a squad from which I could quite easily field two strong XIs.

“The lads have a better idea of how we work than they did a year ago.

“Our new signings have come in and fitted in well.

“The quality levels have risen and we are in good shape.”