How will Alex Neil fare at Preston?

Mike Holden (@Ratings_Mike) previews Alex Neil and Preston ahead of the 2017/18 Championship season.

Background

Alex Neil was on course for an instant return to the Premier League last October when sitting pretty at the top of the table with Norwich, but an alarming collapse followed from which he was unable to recover and he was sacked in March. He returns with a club in decent shape, albeit on modest resources, in the wake of Simon Grayson’s summer departure to Sunderland. Neil has a lot to live up to, successive 11th-placed finishes will take some beating.

Personality

Uncompromising is probably the best way to describe Neil. You might get the occasional smile but don’t expect to penetrate that tough exterior and find a softer side to his personality - football is a game to be taken seriously, at all times. The Scot is an ideas man rather than a people person. He is extremely disciplined and very thorough when it comes match preparation and he holds his players to the same high standards.

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Verdict

North End have overachieved across the past two seasons but it will be interesting to see whether Neil thrives as a former Norwich boss, having never totally escaped the whispers about his experience and pedigree at Carrow Road when coming from Hamilton. If the players buy into his ideas to the same extent that Norwich players did initially, he could be a revelation. Even so, it would be a stretch of anyone’s imagination to envisage a top-six finish. The outcome might be more of the same.

Prediction: mid-table

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