After a few days at the club’s new Euxton training facility, manager Alex Neil is preparing his team for this weekend’s return to action – against Cardiff City - in new surroundings.
The Lilywhites boss admits the new routines has taken a bit of getting used to, but that he is enjoying the finer details of the new site and is hoping to kick on after the international break.
Speaking to iFollow PNE ahead of the live Sky Sports clash with Neil Harris’ men the gaffer said of the training ground change: “It is different. Change is something I didn’t realise I wasn’t a fan of!
“I like my routines, but it is a nice facility for the lads, it will be good for the club and a big feather in the cap for us in terms of facilities. It gives the lads more areas to socialise and the pitches are great as well.
“This is progress from Springfields and that is important. You always want to see signs of progress and whatever you give people, they always want a bit more and that is no different for managers, players and this is certainly a step in the right direction for us and hopefully we can kick on.
“We had a lot of the stuff before; it just wasn’t anywhere near as nice as what we have currently got. A lot of our procedures and protocols haven’t really changed, we just have a better facility to do it in.”
The preparations for the match against the Bluebirds has been difficult, with Emil Riis away with Denmark and uncertainty over Alan Browne’s availability after a member of the Ireland squad tested positive for Covid-19.
However, the return of Daniel Johnson after injury and welcoming back Tom Barkhuizen after his suspension, have given him plenty to consider when looking at his team for the weekend.
“It’s been frustrating,” admitted Alex. “The first day [Emil] came in, we didn’t get his Covid test result back in time, so he couldn’t take part in training. The next day was a Friday, so the session was relatively light and then the day after the game he was away on international duty.
“We get him back on Thursday and he will train with us on Thursday and Friday, which will give him a couple of days before the match.
“It has not been an ideal start for him, but once it settles down, we will be fine.
“Alan has had to isolate at the moment. One of his team-mates in the national team tested positive. Alan has been tested and it came back negative, so we are waiting for medical advice to find out what the next step is for him.
“All you want as manager is to ensure you have your whole squad to choose from. DJ has been a big miss for us; he was player of the year for us last year, but Alan Browne has been in terrific form so far this season and if he is missing, I am hoping that it is not for too long.”
So, what of the opposition? Cardiff picked up the three points from the game at Deepdale back upon the resumption in June, but have they changed much over the summer?
“They have recruited a couple of different players. They have got the boy [Jordi] Osei-Tutu from Arsenal; they had [Dion] Sanderson there last season, Mendez-Laing is no longer there and they have brought in Kieffer Moore, which gives them a different dynamic up front.
“It is mainly the players that alter the way they play. You can see Neil has added layers into the way they are going to play; they are always tough games against Cardiff and I don’t expect this one is going to be any different.
“Whether he starts or comes off the bench, Lee [Tomlin] is always a threat and a danger and you have to keep a constant eye on him, as he can influence a game, so it is pleasing for us that he is not available, but I am sure they have got a lot of other players who can cause us problems.
“We just need to play well and if we do that, we will give us the best chance of getting us the result.
“Everybody is dealing with situations which are a bit strange, given the Covid scenario, but I am just focused on getting the boys ready, seeing who is available when the games comes around and going to try and play as well as we can,” he added.