Can Alex take the Neilly Men into the Promised Land?

Posted on March 24th, 2018

PRESTON North End are one of the surprise packages in this seasons SkyBet Championship. With one of the lowest budgets in the Division, and losing manager Simon Grayson to Sunderland last summer, The Lilywhites were expected to be dragged into a relegation battle this campaign.

The Preston Board, however, moved very quickly and secured themselves a manager capable of taking North End into the riches of the Premier League, hoping to gain the same result you can have by going to free spins no deposit UK to net yourself a tidy profit.

2015-05-25 - Alex Neil - Wembley, London

Alex Neil has experience at first hand of successfully guiding a team into the top flight having taken Norwich there three years ago. The Canaries playoff victory of Middlesbrough came just six months after his move South from Hamilton Accademical, whom he’d worked wonders with to establish as a top-flight side in Scotland.

Neil is doing another fine job in the Championship as Preston sit in eighth position, just two points behind both Derby and Middlesbrough, who occupy the fifth and sixth positions that guarantees a second bite at the Premiership cherry. With just eight games to go, Preston have every chance of overhauling at least one of those teams to give themselves a shot at a first stint in England’s top flight in 57 years.

Many neutrals will be snobbish to say that Preston are too small a club to compete for a Premier League place. Granted, they are not as big as some of their rivals in the Championship but that is no barrier to prevent them from upsetting the odds.

You only have to look at recent history to see that some of England’s least fashionable clubs can realise their dream if mixing it with the countries top sides week-in week-out. Burnley, Watford, Bournemouth, Brighton and Huddersfield are five clubs you wouldn’t recognise as an established Premier League sides, but they are more than holding their own in the top flight and all looking good to survive. In Burnley’s case, they are closer to achieving a Europa League spot than they are to being relegated, thanks largely to the management of Sean Dyche.

Whilst it might be fantasy for Preston to hit those benchmarks set by their Lancashire rivals, they can look to those clubs in particular as examples to prove that they are capable of overcoming the odds in the Championship and beat more high-profile sides like Derby, Middlesbrough and Aston Villa to winning promotion. The examples of Burnley, Bournemouth and Huddersfield in particular, three clubs whose average gates are less than 20,000, highlight that how well the club is run is key to building a promotion achieving side and not how big your gates and wage budgets are.

Preston’s profile fits that bill and Alex Neil has bought into that. Having won promotion with Hamilton on a shoe-string in 2014, he has some knowledge of working against the odds to take a team into the top flight and Preston is a good fit for him. They don’t overspend and have a good core of players, which Neil has added to without spending crazy money in the process. The fact they are in the mix, where five teams from Derby in fifth to Millwall in tenth are separated by just four points, emphasises the job he is doing.

However, there is still a bit of work to be done if North End are to improve on their previous final position of eleventh, where they’ve finished in the last two seasons after flirting with a playoff push for parts of the season. Although they’ve only lost eight games, where only four teams have lost fewer matches, Preston have drawn 15 games this season, the highest in the League. It’s the dropped points in those matches that could be the difference from a second chance of the land of milk and honey, and another campaign where they reflect on “what might have been” as another year is added to the wait for top flight football at Deepdale.

In the last twenty years, Preston have been in the Playoffs four times to get into the top flight for the first time since the Premier League’s formation in 1992. They’ve been beaten finalists in 2001 and 2005 and semi finalists in 2006 and 2009.

Coincidentally, it’s been fellow Scots Davie Moyes, Billy Davies and Alan Irvine who oversaw Preston’s best attempts to get Premier League promotion, which follows in North End’s traditions of having Scottish influence in their club.

Alex Neil is the latest Tartan hope that Preston North End have in getting back into the top flight of English Football since being relegated from the old First Division in 1960/61. If he can keep his group believing that they can overcome the odds and turn a few draws into wins between now and May, then there is every opportunity that Deepdale will be welcoming the two Manchester clubs, Chelsea, Liverpool, Arsenal and Tottenham, among others, on a regular basis next season.

Categories: Football Blog

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