Preston North End manager Alex Neil has come up against Mick McCarthy plenty of times down the years.
The former Irish international boss was in charge of Ipswich Town, when Alex was boss of the Tractor Boys’ bitter rivals Norwich City and he knows what to expect when he takes his team to the Cardiff City Stadium this weekend.
Speaking to iFollow PNE ahead of the trip to Wales, Alex was very complimentary about his opposite number: “Mick has gone in and whatever the issues seemed to be, they seem to have been resolved,” he said.
“They are on a good run of form. They have changed in terms of how they play – they have been direct in their style in terms of getting the ball forward, but it has worked for them and they have been very productive in terms of their points tally recently.
“The squad has shown over the last couple of seasons they have got good quality, in getting out of the league and then getting to the Play-Offs last season and it is hard to say why they didn’t start this season well, because Neil [Harris] had a good impact when he first went in and Mick is having a good impact now.
“Not being there and not seeing what has gone on, it is difficult to know why it didn’t go as well as last year, but equally, the squad has already shown on different occasions previously that it is capable of delivering at this level.
“They are always difficult games against Mick’s teams. We faced his Ipswich Town in the Play-Offs when I was at Norwich and we just managed to beat them, but if they manage to make the Play-Offs this season, they aren’t a team you want to be facing.
“Mick has been in this league for years and he knows how to get the job done. He has turned around Cardiff’s fortunes and they are now looking to get into the top six, but equally, we need to try and get some more points on the board as well. It is going to be an important game for both teams.
“They are riding high and will be confident, but some of our best performances have been on the road this year in terms of going and getting good results against difficult opponents.”
Alex’s squad will face their third game in a week and he says that this will make team selection not as straightforward: “With team selection at the moment it is difficult,” he continued. “If you are sat in the house picking your team, you would say ‘I will pick him, him and him’, but when you are in on a daily basis and you see how fatigued some of them are and you see mentally how some of them are responding, there are a whole lot of things that come into team selection.
“You have to consider how we are going to function, how we are going to play, what the opponent is, what we deem our strengths to be and more.
“But this season, more so than any other, I have tended to go into games and guys who have performed and done well, I have tended to stick by them and give them a good run in the team.
“When you have that many games condensed into that short a period of time, team selection from game to game can be very different.”
In most seasons a team can gain momentum from playing well and winning games, but this season is a unique one according the North End gaffer: “Sometimes playing well is not enough; when you are winning games it might be the case, but I am a believer that if you play well enough, you will win more games than you won’t, but this season, more than any other I am not sure that has not been the case.
“There are games where we have performed particularly well and we have not managed to win and games when we have only done okay, but we have managed to get across the line. It has been a strange season in terms of that for me.
“I think fans have a big part to play and the game where that stood out for me was Luton, where they were allowed fans for that one day and we conceded a goal and the game changed off the back of it.
“We didn’t react well to that, that day and it has very rarely happened, so that’s all I can put it down to.
“What we need to do is to go and try and win the next game, we are not thinking any further ahead than that,” he added.
This weekend's game is only available on iFollow PNE, with Jonathan Breeze joined on commentary duty by former PNE defender Rob Edwards for all the action, on air from just after 2.30pm. To watch the full game live, click here now to sign up for iFollow PNE match pass for just £10.