Preston North End manager Alex Neil has spoken of his relief at putting an end to speculation about his future, after putting pen to paper on a new three-year deal at Deepdale.
Speaking to iFollow PNE ahead of the Lilywhites’ Good Friday clash with Ipswich Town, the gaffer began by discussing his new contract and the fact he could now go back to concentrating on trying to do his best to take the club forward.
“It is just relief that it has been put to bed as much as anything else,” he said. “I have said very little about it. I have made it quite clear that I have never wanted leave here.
“Unfortunately, sometimes in football speculation comes about and people make assumptions and do a lot of talking based on very little evidence.
“Behind the scenes Peter and I have been doing a lot of talking about the future of the club, a lot of talking about my future, how we see things going forward, what we are trying to do and nothing has really changed.
“It is just about making sure we give ourselves the best opportunity at being successful in the upcoming years and for that to happen we need support, we need to make sure that we try and move things on and drag everything forward.
“When you are a manager, you can’t do that yourself, you need support and that is the crucial thing.
“The club has shown me that support and I’m really grateful. I am really pleased that it is all put to bed. I think you find yourself sometimes caught in a no win situation and I think I found myself there at the weekend.
“Naturally, I wanted to go over to the fans and see them after the game, but then it would have looked like I was saying goodbye.
“I was just thinking I am better keeping my powder dry, keep out the way, it will be resolved. I told my players prior to the game that I was meeting Peter the following day.
“They should not be thinking I was working my way out that door after the game was done, so I made that quite clear. However, I think it distracted them, I think it distracted me, from the game. Which is probably only natural, we are human about these things.
“I am just delighted that it is over. I am delighted I have committed my future here and I really believe in what we are doing here. That is why I wanted to stay.”
With four games to go the Lilywhites chief wants to end the campaign on a high, but also build for next season and part of that could involve giving players a chance to show what they can offer the squad next year.
“I think, now, the Play-Offs look unlikely,” Alex continued. “We want to try and finish the season well, but equally there are similar things we probably need to turn our attention to for next year.
“I think that is going to be crucial, we want to make sure we start next season better than we did this season, for instance, because we started really poorly and it gave us a mountain to climb really. We nearly got there, but that poor start really made it difficult.
“We also need to understand where a few of the lads are in there squad and give them game time to try and get a feel of where they are and basically plan to give ourselves the best chance of being successful this season.
“I’m not going to name names down in terms of who may play or may not play and we haven’t got massive options at the moment, we are restricted, but I think these games are important.
“We have been on a poor run in recent weeks. We have played second, third and fourth in the one week, which is extremely difficult. I think the game against Sheffield United could have gone either way, we probably had better chances than they did; against Leeds we matched them until we lost a player and I think the West Brom game became a bit of a circus.
“Now we just need to turn our attention to the next few games and hopefully try to finish the season and have an eye on next year to try and get ourselves ready. We need to build on what we have done.”
Getting back to winning ways in the aim on Good Friday, however, it will not be easy, as despite their position in the table, the Tractor Boys have impressed the PNE manager in recent weeks.
“We did a bit of homework on them this morning; there are certainly teams in the league we have looked at who are not as good as them.
“You can see they have clear patterns of play, you can see they have got some decent players, so this is quite a tough match. They have just run out of time basically, but they will want to finish the season strongly and come straight back up next year.
“I am not quite sure how they will react [to being relegated]; I have only been involved in relegation once as a coach – it is a bizzare feeling. The disappointment, the uncertainty as much as anything else.
“I am sure a few of their lads will feel that way. All the strains and stresses they have been feeling over recent months - worrying about their position and where they are going to be. But now that is gone, they understand where they are now. It is a process of dealing with that as much as anything else. Sometimes that can be quite liberating.
“I imagine Paul [Lambert] now will be starting to look ahead to next season and thinking ‘now, we need to give ourselves the best opportunity to come straight back up next year’.
“I think as a coach you need to start doing that, it is crucial that you give yourselves the best chance further down the line because, as we know, in this job it is all about what you do next. Sometimes I think you have to have the foresight to look forward and plan for that,” he added.