It’s sometimes easy to forget just how young Preston boss Alex Neil really is; at least for a manager.
Neil turned 38 last summer, meaning he’s just three years older than North End midfielder Paul Gallagher, a fixture of his side for two-and-a-half years.
Neil already has a promotion from the Championship on his CV, and a season in the Premier League. In his first season as Preston boss, he claimed a seventh-placed finish, just two points outside the playoffs.
Now, Neil is again chasing the playoffs. Saturday’s 2-1 home win over Charlton Athletic leaves Preston just two points adrift of the top six, having endured a slump since going top of the table in November.
Neil has already done so much in his managerial career, even going back to taking Hamilton Academical into Scotland’s top flight in 2014. The Scot is a hero with the Accies, but when he took the job at just 31, few could have predicted his rise.
Those exploits at New Douglas Park prompted Norwich to appoint him in January 2015, with promotion coming just months later. Now, one of his closest allies from Hamilton has praised the North End boss.
Martin Canning played with Neil at Hamilton, under Neil, coached under his reign and then served as Accies caretaker following Neil’s exit before taking the job full time.
Canning has now spoken to Not The Old Firm about Neil, admitting that they still have a strong relationship. Canning called Neil ‘excellent’ and gives everybody so much belief, marvelling at his work at Preston given how North End are punching above their weight budget-wise.
“I’m still very close with Alex Neil,” said Canning. “Alex was excellent and he’s good at making you believe. He’s doing the same with Preston now, he’s brilliant at making you believe you can achieve anything. Realistically when you’re talking about sizes of budget they shouldn’t be where they are. He’s very good at what he does,” he added.