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First Team News

We Must Play The Game Not The Occasion Says Neil

28 September 2017

Manager Alex Neil is focused on getting three points on Saturday against Sunderland at Deepdale.

This weekend's game sees the return of former manager Simon Grayson and though the gaffer admits there will be an added spice to the game, he insists his players will be focused on the job in hand and that's getting another three points on the board.

"I think we've just got to be careful we don't play the situation rather than the game. The occasion is going to be probably a bit of mixed emotions for people because obviously Simon's coming back for the first time, they will want us obviously to win but they will probably have good feelings towards Simon because he obviously did a good job here which is understandable.

"I've just got to make sure that it doesn't bleed into the players and that doesn't affect them. They have just got to make sure they are focused on the job and Sunderland's issues, or whatever the case may be, are not our problem. We've just got to focus on what we want and we need.

"A bit of heart always helps but making sure you're calm, composed and focused is going to be the key because I think Sunderland will expect a reaction after the defeat at Ipswich so it's going to be a difficult game but we've got to make sure that we keep our levels where they have been.

There are plenty of familiar faces in the Black Cats camp, including last year's player of the year Aiden McGeady and defender Tyias Browning, but Neil feels that as a player, competing against a former manager and teammates would give him and added incentive to perform and hopes that is the case for his players this weekend.

"I think if anything it would add extra incentive for me, certainly competing against somebody who I was familiar with or who I know well. The last thing I would want is for them to have any sort of bragging rights for me. You want to make sure you go and perform and you get the better of them and I'm sure it will be no different for our players."

This weekend's visitors are currently 23rd in the Championship, and after relegation from the Premier League last season, Neil acknowledged the challenge ahead for Grayson and the Black Cats.

"I think they are one of those teams that because they have been in the Premier League for a number of years, they've assembled a squad that are well paid and who have been performing and functioning at a higher level.

"I think the true test is, when you come down, have you got that fire and hunger in your belly to get yourself back to those type of levels.

"I think it's a difficult job for anyone to take on and Simon [Grayson] has taken it on. I've said this before about certain things that there are some issues that you've got at clubs that take longer to resolve and I think at the moment Simon is probably suffering for that at Sunderland."

With the clash the final game before the international break, the gaffer wants to go into the break on a high, adding: "I think the last thing you want to do is go into a couple of weeks where you've not got a game and you've lost and maybe not played well and it's a horrible feeling. It eats away at you for that spell so we want to make sure we go into it with a positive feeling which we should have because we've performed well and started well but ultimately that will be decided on Saturday."

Hear more from the gaffer on this weekend's game by clicking on the video above.


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