Preston North End manager has always been very clear that he understands the extra burden of pressure when it comes to derby games.
And as he prepares to take his team the short trip over to face Tony Mowbray’s Blackburn Rovers at Ewood Park, the Lilywhites boss recognised the feeling amongst the fanbase.
“Derbies mean more to the supporters than any other game, albeit it is still the same three points that you would get if you beat anybody else, but it is about the bragging rights,” he told iFollow PNE.
“We have been fortunate in the last three meetings that we have come away with the bragging rights, but having said that, certainly the last two games have been particularly difficult.
“The game at their place last season, we didn’t play particularly well, they were arguably better and we managed to nick the game 1-0 and then the game earlier this season, they started great, we made a couple of alterations, we grew into the game and then we managed to go and score a few goals.
“They are always tough matches that are decided on very little or a moment of quality and hopefully we can find ourselves on the right side of that.
“Derbies are what football is all about. It is the elation of winning that game or it is the pain of losing it. If you do lose, it is painful. I have been on the end of a couple of derby losses – albeit not many – but I have been fortunate that I have got a good record, even at previous clubs, in terms of derbies.
“This one means a lot to the fans, that is certainly not lost on us and we will go and do our best.”
Rovers have had to juggle personnel since the unfortunate loss of Bradley Dack with an ACL injury just before Christmas and Alex is preparing for numerous options.
“They have used different systems and they are more than capable of playing any system,” he continued. “We have seen them play a back three, a back four, flooded the middle of the pitch, gone with two centre forwards – so we will just prepare as we do when we play these type of teams, looking at how to deal with whatever they choose to go with.
“Darragh Lenihan missed the last one and Jayden [Stockley] came on and did very well, but Lenihan would be the one who would combat that as much as possible.
“He was a big loss for them when he was out. He is very aggressive in the air; he has been a good player for them. I was at the Blackburn and Wigan game just before Christmas and he played centre back and I am sure they will be pleased he is back.”
In terms of his own options, Daniel Johnson is getting closer to a return and he also believes the big game experience of Scott Sinclair will help him hit the ground running.
“DJ has been a big miss for us. He has missed the last six games for us and he is still our top goalscorer. He was fundamental to the success we had at the start of the season.
“Adding Scott gives us strength in depth, as well as a bit of knowledge and quality further up the pitch and what he also brings is mentality. He has been involved in winning teams and knowing how to get titles, promotions and things like that and that experience is crucial and hopefully it can rub off on some of the other lads.
“This type of game won’t phase him. It is a good game for any player to come in to. We’ll assess his fitness levels over the next couple of days and then we will make a decision whether he will start or not, but he will be itching to get going I would imagine,” he added.