Preston North End manager Alex Neil has almost a full squad to choose from this weekend and he admits that means a few tough decisions will have to be made when selecting his starting XI.
With Declan Rudd returning to the grass, only Louis Moult is definitely not yet ready for the opening game against Steve Cooper’s Swansea City and that means more than 20 outfield players will compete for starting spots.
Speaking to iFollow PNE the gaffer said it would be ‘tough’ when he came to finalise his team to take on the Welsh side at Deepdale.
“We have some difficult choices to make,” said the Lilywhites boss. “That is always the case when you have a squad where there is not a lot between the players and the lads are all performing at a good level.
“It is going to be a tough selection; that was always going to be the case and we don’t have too many injuries at the moment, so the majority of the lads are available.”
Like everything else at the moment, things are a little strange and not like they have been in the past, but Alex says that on the training pitch and in games, that’s where events seem more like normality.
“It is different,” he continued. “We had a ten week break initially and then we came back for a short spell and finished off last season and then we had a mini-three week break and then we are back in again.
“It is different to what we did in the past and it looked as if we were getting back on track and things were getting back to normal and that we were close to getting fans back in, but that looks to have stalled slightly at the moment. I am hoping that is resolved quickly, so we can get people back in asap.
“It is different, but on the pitch itself, in terms of training and the games we have played, it became a bit more normalised, because we have done it for a bit of time now.”
Last season saw North End start the season with a positive run and the PNE boss was that repeated again in 2020/21: “Consistency is key, but that is why people call the Championship one of the hardest divisions in the world, because it is a long hard season, it is 46 games, it is going to be tough.
“It has always been tough, consistency is key. You want to get off to a good start, to give you a footing and hopefully you can try and maintain that, so that when you hit the January window and things like that.
“Our aim is to start the season well, it’s as simple as that.”
Jacks boss, Cooper, used three at the back in their 2-0 defeat at Newport County last weekend, but the Scot is not assuming that will be the case in PR1 on Saturday afternoon.
“It is something they used towards he end of last season, but they are equally as adept at playing a 4-3-3 – which is a system they are well-versed in as well.
“We are not taking anything for granted. I have watched all their games from pre-season, but we are focused on ourselves, because it is really tough to predict anything and they will be probably thinking the same about us in the sense of who starts, who doesn’t start. We just need to focus on ourselves,” he added.
There’s lots more from Alex on a range on topics in the full video available from the top of the page – you can also read his first programme notes of the season by ordering your copy of The One And Only – click here now to do just that.
Saturday’s game is available for all fans to watch for just £10 per match pass on iFollow PNE. Four camera coverage with replays, graphics and commentary from Jonathan Breeze and former PNE striker Brett Ormerod are available by clicking here for a match pass.