Neil's more positive play keeps PNE moving forwards - Interview
Friday, 1st Dec 2017 12:42 by Clive Whittingham
Preston have consistently punched above their weight in the Championship and Deepdale regular Stephanie Lambert says they’ve recovered well from the loss of long serving manager Simon Grayson.
Assess Preston's start to the season...
SL: It has been a little bit of a rollercoaster so far. At the very beginning of the season we had a stint of impressive form, a new attacking style to our play which is something we have been lacking in recent years and we showed some really promising signs. However, we came in to some bad luck and have been plagued with injuries. It’s the worst I've seen it for a long, long time... it was something silly like 14 injured, many of them defenders, and we went from having one of the best defence records in the league to one of the worst. We have been playing with a makeshift back line, dropping some midfielders in there at times. However, we are still in a promising position only six points from a play-off position. Our form seems to be recovering with more players returning to the squad. I'm still very optimistic about the season ahead. It will be interesting to see what the gaffer has in store for January, players and fans alike seemed to of bought in to his style of play.
Simon Grayson left after a long stint in charge, how will he be remembered and how was his departure received? Were you surprised it didn't work for him at Sunderland?
SL: Grayson will always be a legend here, he did a lot for this club and took it out of some very, very dark places. His departure rattled a few fans, mainly those who follow with blind faith, it's always upsetting to see someone who did so much for the club you love leave but we must remember it's just a job to him. Most saw it as an opportunity to bring in fresh blood as they had been calling for a more attacking style of play. It was a bit frustrating for fans because he left on the first day back at training so that must of effected the lads and with the transfer window still open as well of course he took his targets with him, so that was a bit annoying but it is what it is. I actually pitted against him a while back, it was when the Black Cats sacked their manager I put a bet on for Grayson to take over and be sacked before Christmas. So I won a pretty penny. It was of no shock, I was more shocked Sunderland went for him... He has never got a team promoted from the Championship to the Premier League before but the man has a keen eye for bargain players and with their tight budget they utilised that securing players like McGeady and Grabban. Sunderland are a troubled club and it will take a while to fix, Grayson is a builder not a fixer, it takes him a while. He was never the right guy for the job.
Happy with Alex Neil? What did you think of the appointment and how has he done so far?
SL: I was dubious at the start, I'm not going to lie. I didn't question him I just I didn't know a great deal of him other than his whirlwind career at Norwich but I started to dig and he sounded okay but then when the start of the season came... the way our lads played? There was no question I was happy with the appointment. The lads played with a spring in their step. It was like a new lease of life was given to them. The mix is right, we've got a real young, hungry and ambitious squad now and a manger to suit that. I'm happy with the start so far and all the right signs are there. It's just the injuries we need to reign in, more injuries are to be expected when you raise the intensity of your play and maybe the lads hadn't quite adapted to that yet but other than that I'm really happy. We are playing the most exciting football I've seen at Deepdale for a good few years.
You rejected big bids for Jordan Hugill in the summer, right decision or better to sell high and reinvest?
SL: It depends how you define a 'big bid' - it's hard to really replace someone of his calibre with the money being offered. I mean you can no doubt find somebody but it's not so easy. You have to wait for them to gel with the rest of the team. That's if they do and if they don’t you’ve lost one of your best players and spent your money on not so ample replacements. It's a huge risk. I think it's a statement really, a club that wants to move forward wants to keep its best players at its club unless it can replace them with someone they deem a sufficient replacement. So it's nice to see, I don't think I've ever known North End not to be a selling club so it's definitely a step in the right direction. If we manage to keep him in January. Well, that’s another thing.
Stand out players and weak links in the side?
SL: Ben Pearson for me is a stand out player for me, he does the real dirty side of football, regaining possession, holding up play and 50/50s he's really old fashioned and gives every performance everything. He's a very solid holding midfielder. Our defence is struggling at the moment as stated earlier we have a few injuries in that department. So we are letting in more than we did at the start but the situations getting better than it was say two week ago.
How do you see the rest of your season panning out?
SL: If we can get a few of our key players back early enough and make some key decisions in Jan there is no reason this team can't make the play offs. On our day we can match anyone, we thumped Cardiff 3-0 and they are having a great season, we just need to get back to being consistent.
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