Manager Alex Neil has just completed his first half season as Preston North End manager, Saturday’s clash with Nottingham Forest being the Lilywhites’ 23rd game of the season.
And with every Championship rival now faced once, the PNE boss doesn’t believe his side have anything to fear going into the second half of the season, beginning against his former club, from his playing days, Barnsley at Oakwell on Boxing Day.
Speaking to iFollow PNE on Christmas Eve, the gaffer was pleased with how his team has developed and is looking for them to kick on after Christmas.
“I think we should be pleased with what has happened so far,” he said. “We have a young squad; we didn’t do too much adding to it in the summer, so with the young lads that we have got and the results we have had from them, I think we can be really pleased.
“I think we are in a good position, if we can kick on in the second half of the season. We have put two really good run together. We went through an injury crisis and because of that we went through a little tricky spell of games, but when we came through the other end of that we put in another good run and we are now seven games unbeaten and we hope we can add to that.
“We have been really competitive in most of the games and we have got qualities going forward. I still think we have got things we can improve on and we want to try and strengthen the squad as well if we can, but the players are getting better both individually and collectively. Our style of play is getting better as well. I have mentioned before that I want us to add more goals and I think that is going to be an important factor in us trying to move us forward, but we should be pleased with what we have done.
“When you do well, there comes that air of expectation and we have to make sure that we don’t become one of those teams that we face each week, where they just roll up and expect to beat Preston. We can’t look at any team like that, we have to give them the respect they deserve, however, there is no reason we can’t go and beat any team. When it comes to expectation that you just go out and beat anybody, that becomes a problem. We have to keep working hard, keep our feet on the ground and keep doing what we are doing.”
After Christmas Day in training, the manager takes his side to a stadium and a club for whom he made over 130 appearances between 2000 and 2004 and he is looking forward to it.
“It feels like a lifetime ago. They probably won’t recognise me, as I have less hair and I am probably a bit fatter now!” He joked.
“It will be nice to go back. I have been back before with Norwich, but the most important thing for us is that we want to continue this run. We want to try and play as well as we can and hopefully get the three points.
“Both teams have had good patches and bad patches [since we played at Deepdale in September]. Barnsley have struggled to score of late and have recently gone with two up top to try and get the goals.
“The one thing that is guaranteed, is that they will be competitive. They are hard to beat and we are going to have to make sure that we more than match them, because if you don’t do that, then it is a tough afternoon.”
You can see more from the manager, by clicking on the video at the top of the page, as he talks about training on Christmas Day and about the travelling support heading across to Oakwell.