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First Team News

Neil Proud Of Players Ahead Of Crunch Match

3 May 2018

With his side just two points outside the Play-Offs going in to the final game of the Championship season, manager Alex Neil has expressed how proud he is of his squad for their season so far.

Despite being in and around the top six for the majority of the season, North End have largely gone under the radar and the gaffer feels his side deserve more credit for their efforts this season.

Speaking to iFollow PNE ahead of Saturday's clash with Burton Albion, the PNE boss said: "Huge amount of credit has to go to them because we’ve been written off so many times this year; when we’ve maybe had a bad result or come up a bit short in a big game.

"Naturally people write you off because they think you haven’t got enough or they don’t have the determination to get through and the one thing we’ve done all season is come back. We’ve shown our bravery, we’ve shown our character.

"If you look at some of the plaudits that some of the teams have got this year, your Millwall's, Sheffield United's, Bristol City’s and the simple fact is, we’re above them all. I think they deserve huge amount of credit which I don’t think they have got over the course of the season but I’m extremely proud of them and I think they have done fantastically well.

"I said it before when I came here, we don’t get nearly the amount of attention the other teams get – purely for one reason, we’ve never been in the Premier League. That’s something we’re trying to address and trying to put ourselves on the map. Sometimes that can be a good thing.

"It lets us go about our business, we don’t get caught up in the rubbish that can surround speculation and all the rumours and all the nonsense that’s involved in football sometimes. Our job is really simple. We’ve got an honest, hardworking group of players.

"We come in, we work really hard, we’re determined and we believe we can achieve things. As a footballing coach and having been a player for such a long time, that’s the purest form of football for me.

"It’s the bit I enjoy the most. I’m not going to complain about it, I just think sometimes the players deserve more credit than they’ve been given because they’ve done extremely well.

On the mentality in the dressing room, the gaffer continued: "They’re really quite a balanced group. They don’t get carried away when we do well and they don’t get too down when we struggle for a game. What we do is we put things into context.

"We watch all our games back, we look at what we’ve done well, what we’ve done not so well and we’ve got a real understanding of what our strengths and weaknesses are.

We know where we need to do and we’re working hard to do that but we also know what we’re good at and we make sure we make those strengths count when it comes on a weekend.

"They’re really mature for such a young group. Although they’re young in age, a lot of them have played quite a lot of games now. Hopefully for them and for us, they have a bright future which means we have a bright future and hopefully we can continue to get better.

The Lilywhites must win on Sunday to give themselves a chance to break in to the top six, and then hope the results goes their way in the clash between Derby County and Barnsley, but the manager is solely focused on his side taking care of their own business and nothing else.

"That’s not really in our mind-set at the moment. Our only focus and the only thing we’re talking about is winning on Saturday. Once it’s done we’ll see what’s happened elsewhere and we’ll either be in or we won’t.

"If we’re not, we’ll be disappointed, and if we are we’ll be delighted and we’ll be ready for the next game. Our sole focus is that we’ve worked really hard this year and we don’t want all our hard work going to waste by not doing the job that we need to do, what we need to do is go and win the game on Sunday and the rest will take care of itself.

"At Sheffield United I didn’t really know [the results elsewhere], I knew our fans were obviously in fine voice but our away fans are always in fine voice. I was unsure whether the results were going our way or not, they are that good and they’re that vocal.

"We were just solely focussed on winning the match. We won the match, we came in ten or 15 minutes after the game then I found out things had gone in our favour. Then we had Millwall vs Middlesbrough to watch later on that evening as well.

"You can’t affect any of that. Our job is really simple at the weekend. I won’t need to know what’s going on elsewhere because our jobs simple. Win the game and then if we’ve got a bit of fortune on our side then hopefully we can get the results going our way elsewhere.

The fans can play a key part this weekend and the manager wants the fans to get behind his side and hopes the players can repay them with victory: "We just want them to enjoy the game and lift the lads. There’s always an old adage of should the players be playing well to lift the fans or should the fans lift the players to play well. It’s the whole chicken and the egg thing.

"What we want to do is play well to get the fans excited and try to win the game. But equally, there might be a bit in the game where it’s a bit frustrating and we might need the fans to lift some of the boys and get them going. And if they can do that it would be extremely helpful."

Watch the full interview with the gaffer on iFollow PNE now by clicking on the video above.


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