Preston North End boss Alex Neil reveals masterplan for new season

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Preston manager Alex Neil has hinted at more of a horses-for-courses approach to his team selection this season.

Neil is of the view that the squad is now stronger in most positions than it was last term and that will allow him to field different combinations on a game-by-game basis.

In the final friendly against Oldham last Saturday, he ran the rule over a few pairings.

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Midfield duo Ryan Ledson and Alan Browne, for example, both got time next to Ben Pearson.

PNE's summer buy Ryan Ledson (above) partnered Ben Pearson for part of the second half against OldhamPNE's summer buy Ryan Ledson (above) partnered Ben Pearson for part of the second half against Oldham
PNE's summer buy Ryan Ledson (above) partnered Ben Pearson for part of the second half against Oldham

Neil told the Post: “What I have got is 22 or 23 players with not a lot between them.

“From them I have got to pick a starting XI and that won’t be easy.

“I have had a look at a few combinations in terms of who is suited to play next to each other in different games.

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“That is something we will do more of this year than we did last season.

“You want flexibility in the squad, every manager and coach wants options when it comes to affecting games.”

There were some clues at Oldham as to who could start against Queens Park Rangers at Deepdale on Saturday.

Obviously things will have to change up front with Sean Maguire having limped off with a hamstring injury which will keep him sidelined for some time.

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Whether the XI he started with at Oldham was what Neil initially had in mind for QPR, he was being coy about.

Neil said: “It probably didn’t work out that way.

“Was that the team for the weekend? I’d say the answer to that is probably ‘no’.

“There were still some combinations to look at.

“Against Oldham I wanted to see Alan Browne in the No.8 position with Josh Harrop and Ben Pearson.

“I also wanted to see Ryan Ledson and Ben play so they got time together during the second half.”

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Only two players got the full 90 minutes at Boundary Park as Neil gave a run-out to most of the squad.

Ben Davies and Andrew Hughes played throughout, with Davies partnered first by Paul Huntington and then Tom Clarke.

Callum Robinson and Tom Barkhuizen started on the wings, Graham Burke and Daryl Horgan introduced from the bench.

Jordan Storey and Josh Earl were unused substitutes, with Daniel Johnson missing the game through injury.

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Billy Bodin played the last 20 minutes but suspension will rule him out on Saturday, a legacy of his red card on the final day of last season.

Said Neil: “Ahead of the QPR game, we will fine-tune things in training.

“Everyone in the squad should be champing at the bit to be involved.

“The first game is one to look forward to.”