Preston North End manager Alex Neil has welcomed the fantastic efforts of the fans ahead of the clash with league leaders West Bromwich Albion in front of the Sky Sports cameras on Monday night.
Supporters groups have come together to raise money for the return of the famous 90’s ‘wolf’ flag, along with the appeal for fans to recreate the scene from Birmingham game in 2007 with the scarves.
And, interviewed by iFollow PNE in front of an iconic image from that game, the manager was grateful for the backing and hoped to give back with a performance to match those efforts.
“It is easy to support a team when everything is going great,” he told the club’s online video service. “The last two games have been difficult and the backing of the fans and their support means everything to us.
“We are very hopeful they will get behind us; it is great to hear everything they are doing to back the team and hopefully we can give them something to shout about.
“The away form hasn’t been as good as we would have liked so far, but in the two most recent games, in terms of players being missing, that has been more key than anything else, but if we can get back home and play as well as we can, pick up some good results, then we can take it from there.”
Reflecting on the midweek trip to the KCOM Stadium, the gaffer acknowledged that it still left a ‘sore’ feeling amongst everyone at the club.
“What we have to do is to take stock and look at the bigger picture, in terms of what we have delivered so far,” he continued. “Naturally, we are bitterly disappointed with the last result – it didn’t go our way and we didn’t do things well enough and it is sore.
“The players will feel sore, but, as always, they have an opportunity to put it right.
“Our home form has been the best this season out of all four leagues, so we want to try and continue that.
“We are very hopeful we will get some players back, because when you are missing so many players in the same position, it becomes extremely difficult and that certainly played its part the other night.
“Some of the lads got put into positions that were foreign to them and they found it tough, but, as always, we will take it on the chin and we need to hopefully try and go into this game and do well.
“If you look at the season so far, we have coped with injuries well. We lost Louis Moult; we lost Josh Harrop for a month; Andrew Hughes has missed most of the season and Tom Clarke has missed most of the season, so the squad has been resilient. But on top of the injuries, when you then start losing Darnell Fisher and then Alan Browne – who would have probably filled in for him – it then does then start to become really difficult, because it is all in a key position.
“It was a perfect storm against Hull, because their strength is their wide players and unfortunately for us, it was against that – at full backs – where we were at our weakest. We just need to deal with it, it is what it is, we are not going to feel sorry for ourselves. It is frustrating, because it is not a true representation of how well we have done, but hopefully we can bounce back.
“If we get a few bodies back, that will help and hopefully we can show everybody the form that we have shown at home so far this season. It is going to be a tough game – West Brom are a very good team.
“They are top of the league and have a really strong squad, but as we have shown this year, when we are on it, particularly at home, we are a match for anybody.”
The Baggies appointed a new head coach in the summer, with new Croatian boss Slaven Bilić leading them to the top of the table within a few short months of his arrival and Alex has been impressed with his work over the summer to put together a competitive squad.
“Their recruitment has been great. [Slaven Bilić] went in there in the summer, had a lot of work to do – they have had a lot of churn in terms of players – but the quality that he has added, has been excellent.
“They have put a lot of expenditure into those signings and Slaven has got them organised. He has got good players in good positions and they have been very effective.
“Matt Phillips has been promoted out of this division a couple of times; he is very, very effective in the Championship with his power in pace. I think the lad [Grady] Diangana [on loan from West Ham United] has been excellent; [Mattheus] Pereira [on loan from Sporting Lisbon] is, I think, the top assist maker in the league, so you can see his quality; Romaine Sawyers has been a top player in the Championship for a long time and then when they have the likes of Charlie Austin – who has played most of his career in the Premier League – and then they have [Kenneth] Zohore, who got Cardiff up; so what his got is to recruit players who know how to get out of this division, guys who have done it before and has got good quality in key positions.
“We know it is going to be tough, but as our lads have shown, when we play well, we can beat anyone. In our last Sky game, against Charlton, we were excellent and we want to try and replicate that,” he added.