Preston North End striker Ched Evans on adjusting to the managerial change at Deepdale and facing his former loan club Norwich City
Ched Evans admits it took him a few days to get used to Alex Neil no longer being Preston North End manager.
It was Neil who played a big part in bringing Evans to Deepdale in January and he started the striker for 11 games running up to his departure.
Evans’ focus is now fully on helping Frankie McAvoy keep North End clear of a relegation scrap.
Going into the Easter fixtures, they are nine points better off than third-bottom Rotherham.
What has to be factored into the mix is the Millers having four matches in hand, the consequence of two separate Covid-19 outbreaks.
Better to have points on the board than games in hand but Rotherham are a threat which cannot be ignored.
Giving his thoughts on the managerial change, Evans said: “Not having the gaffer about the place was strange for a few days because he interacted with everyone and was always around.
“Alex was a really dominant figure, I appreciated and admired that – he was there kicking every ball.
“Football is different now than it used to be, some footballers don’t handle pressure and big characters as well.
“For me, things were very intense sometimes here but I enjoyed that intensity.
“I thought it helped my game, knowing I always had someone pushing me, asking for more.
“In today’s game you need that because players are fitter and stronger, you need to be able to get through to the 95th minute in every game.
“So Alex’s intensity was a really positive thing for me and helped my game.”
The timing of Neil’s exit right at the beginning of the international break has afforded interim head coach McAvoy plenty of time to work with the PNE squad ahead of the Good Friday clash with Norwich at Deepdale (3pm).
Evans says the training has been good and that will be put to the test against the high-flying Canaries.
“Frankie has been putting smiles on faces, helping us get over the manager leaving,” said Evans, 32,
“We’ve had the international break in there, with a couple of days off to spend time with our families.
“On the training ground we’ve got a lot of work done and we’ll see when Friday comes how the plan works out.
“We want to get the job done, get the points we need as quickly as possible.”
North End’s run of fixtures over Easter and beyond looks daunting.
Norwich are eight points clear at the top of the Championship table, with Monday’s opponents Swansea City in third place and Brentford – who come to Deepdale a week on Saturday – in fourth place currently.
Evans debates whether that might actually be a good thing, PNE’s results this season against the top teams being better than when they have played sides nearer the bottom.
“This is a massive game for us but I feel that Preston as a team generally do well against the better teams who are higher up,” said the former Wales international.
“It is the teams who don’t play as much football who we seem to have struggled against – we have not coped with the long ball.
“We’ve got really good midfielders so when the ball is bypassing them, our shape isn’t quite right.
“The pitch becomes enormous and it is difficult for us to cover the ground in terms of closing people down and getting after the ball.”
Evans had a loan spell with Norwich early in his career, when on the books of Manchester City.
He went to East Anglia in November 2007 and had a good season. Said Evans: “I started 18 or 20 games and scored 10 goals, so I did pretty well.
“I really enjoyed my time there, it’s a good club and a lovely place.
“Glenn Roeder, God rest his soul, was manager there and he had Lee Clark as his No.2.
“It seems ages ago now and it was an important step for me.”
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