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Preston North End v Sheffield Wednesday - Sky Bet Championship

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Alex Neil - is he any good? Preston fan Jack tells us about Sunderland head coach candidate

Roy Keane is out of the running for the Sunderland job, and bookies now have Alex Neil as the favourite. Is he any good? Preston fan Jack gives us his opinion of the Scottish coach...

Photo by Rich Linley - CameraSport via Getty Images

RR: Alex Neil, then - is he any good?

Jack: I think it would be a massive coup for any side in League One to hire Alex Neil.

RR: How is he viewed by Preston fans after leaving last year?

Jack: We all loved him for three years as he had us dreaming of the play-offs and with a bit of backing, I’m convinced he would’ve finished in the top six. He lost a bit of a love from a minority last season but the majority stuck by him and were disappointed to see him sacked in 16th place - which wasn’t an underachievement in terms of the squads realistic ability. He had us punching above our weight in seasons prior.

RR: To his credit, lasting four years in a job in football management is some going. Why do you think he was kept around for as long as he was?

Jack: PNE as a club aren’t traditionally a sacking club and like to give managers time to turn poor runs around. He played on the front foot and the players were always clearly fighting for him when the results weren’t going right.

Sunderland v Preston North End - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Jonathan Hobley - Camerasport/CameraSport via Getty Images

RR: What would you say his strengths are as a coach?

Jack: His ability to come in and get results quickly are a strength of his which you could see in his spell at Norwich and in his first season with us.

He plays with an emphasis on pressing from the front and putting the opposition under pressure. Not afraid to play out from the back either - when PNE were at their best, it was box office viewing.

RR: And weaknesses...

Jack: At times PNE struggled to break down deep defensive lines who sat in and were happy to invite pressure. North End were always better against the better sides when the emphasis was on winning the ball back.

Norwich fans were also quite insistent that he had no Plan ‘B’ which you could see at Deepdale for his final few months. But he has a playing style and he likes to stick by it and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

RR: Sunderland are in a position where our promotion hopes are dangling by a thread, and realistically our best chance of getting out of the league is via the play-offs. Do you think Neil has what it takes to get us there?

Jack: He came in mid-season with Norwich City and he got them promoted via the play offs at the first time of asking. I think you can draw similarities with that here, albeit in a lower division.

Sunderland v Norwich City - Premier League Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images

RR: We’ve got a very young squad that’s lacking in confidence. Do you think we’ll get an instant boost from Neil coming in?

Jack: You’ve got a young, attacking squad that should have the legs to play Alex’s way of playing. We had a lot of injuries at times as players couldn’t cope with the demands he put on players.

Players never stopped playing for him and they still speak highly of him now - there was a respect between the squad and himself. With his CV I’m sure the Sunderland players will be willing to play for him.

RR: Overall, what would you say to any Sunderland fans who aren’t sure about this appointment?

Jack: I was all in on the Rob Edwards camp for you guys to be fair and I think he would work wonders with your squad but that was because I didn’t think Alex would be tempted by a move down to League One.

I still think more than half of the sides in the Championship would be more than happy to appoint AN as their next manager so I can’t understate how much of a good appointment this is.

He’s also an upgrade on Lee Johnson. He always had the better of LJ’s sides and always finished higher. Sit back, enjoy and get your tickets bought for Wembley already.


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