After missing out on the playoffs last season, Preston will be hoping to make that jump next season. To do so, we’ll need some clever signings and a little bit of luck.
Ahead of the first pre-season game this weekend, against Bamber Bridge, Alex Neil has been looking ahead to the new season. Speaking to the club’s official website, he pointed out exactly why it’s a big season for North End.
Neil suggested that there are fewer clubs throwing outrageous cash at promotion, with the threat of Financial Fair Play sanctions looming over certain clubs.
Neil hopes that this reduced spending by ‘bigger’ clubs will open up a window of opportunity. The North End boss believes it’s a ‘good thing’ for Preston that teams are becoming worried about FFP, with no such issues at Deepdale.
“I wouldn’t say there is a lack of cash, but there are probably less clubs who are flush this year than previous years. We have seen teams like Aston Villa, West Brom and Middlesbrough who in years gone by have flung a bit of money at it, but I don’t think teams are in the position to do that this year as much as they have been,” said Neil. “We are hoping that will make the playing field a lot more level and that we can impress and do what we can.
“What is going to be really interesting is that if financial fair play rules continue to be broken, what the consequences of that will be and a few teams are probably worried about that, because nobody had been punished before last season. They are much more conscious of it now, which means they are having to rein it in a little bit and for us, that is only a good thing,” he added.
Clubs dialling back their spending and potentially selling key players may give North End a real chance. Admittedly, it will take some clever investments from Preston themselves to make this a possibility, rather than simply hoping for the best.
With teams wary of Financial Fair Play and some North End players – Ben Pearson, Alan Browne, Ben Davies – inside the final two years of their deals, this is such a huge opportunity.
Neil publicly acknowledging these FFP situations means he knows how important this season. The combination of reduced spending from rivals, and key players edging closer to their contracts expiring, means it feels like there may not be a better chance to really kick on.
It’s all set up for a team like Preston to crack the top six, but it sadly seems that other clubs are better prepared. Bristol City, and Brentford look particularly strong.
Neil’s understanding of the situation facing Preston this season will hopefully see some key additions – and a real push for that elusive top six place.