Adam Lord's PNE Press View: Alex Neil's straight talking a refreshing change

Too often you get the usual platitudes from managers up and down the land as they conduct press conference after press conference.

Saturday, 23rd December 2017, 9:00 am
Alex Neil talks to the Lancashire Post's Dave Seddon during a pre-match press conference at PNE's Springfields training base

“One game at a time”, “game of two halves” and so on and so on.

You know the drill, 
having read those words in this newspaper and others on many occasions down the years.

At the moment however it’s nice to deal with a manager who lets you know exactly what he thinks about most topics and doesn’t shy away from making his point clear.

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That doesn’t mean Alex Neil is a man who rants and raves.

The Scot just knows his own mind and certainly has a clear idea of what he wants to see on the field from his emerging side and what he thinks they can achieve.

So often managers will play down their club’s 
chances almost in a bid to fly under the radar.

On Saturday after the Lilywhites moved to within two points of the play-offs with a 1-0 win over Sheffield United the subject of their promotion credentials 
returned after a few weeks off the agenda.

“I’ve always said that we have got a chance, it is 
everyone else that doesn’t believe me!”

That was Neil’s response with a smile when asked about whether his side 
could be in the promotion shake-up come May.

There was no, “We’ll see how we go” or “It’s a long season”, a direct assessment that yes, this promising Preston side has the tools to gatecrash the top six as they strive to reach the Premier League for the first time.

It’s not new, since the first day the former Norwich boss replaced Simon Grayson in July, he has talked of a 
top-flight future for North End be it this season or in the next year or two.

Whether it be directly from Neil himself or 
something aided by a nudge or two from those on high at Deepdale, it is clear there has been a shift in mentality this campaign.

Yes the club aren’t spending the eye-watering fees on players that others are and are having to work in a 
different market to the likes of table-topping Wolves.

But that isn’t being mentioned or trotted out as an excuse and Neil is refreshingly bullish about what can be achieved over the 46-game campaign on comparatively limited resources.

That continued at Wednesday’s pre-Nottingham Forest media briefing.

I offered up a question about the history of Saturday’s visitors and how their struggles in recent years were a sign of just how strong the Championship is.

Neil’s answer referenced the storied past of PNE and how he is keen to write a new chapter at Deepdale, something that I’m sure will be music to the ears of the North End faithful.

“Nottingham Forest, like so many clubs and even us to a certain extent, can be weighed down by their 
history,” he said.

“What we want to do 
here is we want to create new history.

“We don’t want to keep talking about the olden days because to me that suggests you’re not successful.

“We want to try and build new memories and hopefully try and achieve good things.”

As bold statements go it’s certainly up there but 
coming from the man it did, it certainly came as no 

It is clear however that Neil is impressed with what he’s got at his disposal, his straight talking approach 
also extending to assessments of his players.

He’s made no secret for example of just how key Ben Pearson is to how he wants his side to play and how much of a miss he has been when out of the side through injury and suspension.

The former Manchester United man was at his crowd-pleasing best in the win over the Blades last time out.

There is probably no better sight at Deepdale than a firm but fair Pearson sliding challenge and two came within 60 seconds of each other at the weekend.

The first kicked off an attack, while the second broke up the resultant counter, both bringing the crowd to their feet at the time when the game was a little flat.

A fellow journalist working for a national newspaper referred to the 22-year-old as a “one-man army” which seemed like an apt description of a typically all-action display.

As we enter the January transfer window attention is on Jordan Hugill’s future once again.

He is North End’s headline name at the moment as he tops the goalscoring 
charts and is the subject of multi-million pound bids.

But as things stand, few could argue with Pearson being the most influential player at the club.

Whoever you go for as the star man, both have played their part in a six-game 
unbeaten run since the last international break that 
has certainly got tongues wagging again in PR1 and 
further afield.

Victory over 11th-in-the-table Forest could see North End fans be handed a perfect Christmas present, the sight of their side in the play-offs at the halfway point of the season.

Then, we could really start talking about some 
history being made at 
Deepdale in 2018.