Preston North End boss finds reason to be CHEER-ful

The sight and sound of supporters inside Deepdale cannot come soon enough for Preston boss Alex Neil.

Saturday, 29th August 2020, 8:00 am

North End return to competitive action this afternoon when they take on League Two outfit Mansfield Town at home in the first round of the Carabao Cup.

But as per the norm at this moment in time, the match will take place behind closed doors due to the Covid-19 pandemic, which has paralysed not just football but life in general over the past five months.

The 2019-20 Championship season was placed in cold storage for more than three months in March, and was then played to a conclusion during June and July in front of empty stadiums.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Fans are expected back inside Deepdale for the visit of Cardiff City

Current government policy decrees that spectators cannot re-enter sporting venues until after October 1 – and even then social distancing measures are expected to be in place with grounds expected to operate with a limited capacity.

It all means that North End will begin the start of the new league campaign with home games against Swansea City and Stoke City, and a trip to Norwich in between, in front of empty stands.

However, there is light at the end of the tunnel and the away game at Brentford’s new stadium in early October is expected to be played in front of supporters.

And North End fans can look forward to the prospect of watching their team in the flesh once more when Cardiff City travel to Deepdale on October 17.

Neil revealed he has not enjoyed watching his team play in front of no spectators and admits some players need the adrenalin rush provided by a crowd to produce their best.

“The biggest difference between a professional player and a player who plays for fun is walking out in front of the fans, the atmosphere, the adrenalin that it gives you,” said Neil.

“Having to perform because there is an expectation placed upon you.

“When that is not there, regardless of how good a professional you may be, it is different. The game just becomes very different when there are no fans inside the stadium.

“What we have found is some players will flourish in that environment and others don’t get the best out of themselves.

“It’s really difficult to 
pinpoint who will flourish and who won’t, but when 
the games are played you can see it.

“They feed off the adrenalin and the buzz of playing in front of fans and the atmosphere that brings.

“I am not a fan of it but there hasn’t been much we have been able to do about it.

“I will be very, very pleased when all the fans get back 
inside the stadium.”