First, Dave, thanks for joining us. An obvious point of interest for Norwich fans is seeing Alex Neil in the opposition dugout. He made a flying start with us, leading us to the playoffs and a glorious Wembley day, then seemed to lose his mojo with setbacks in the Premier League. What do you and your fellow Preston fans make of him?
Dave: Neil is doing a very good job here and is well liked by the Preston supporters. He changed the mantra here early on from being glad to being in the Championship to wanting to do well in it and challenge at the upper end.
He’s straightforward in his talking and certainly seems a popular manager with the squad. He’s big on team spirit and to adding the ‘right sorts’ when it comes to players’ personalities.
Neil has the belief that Preston can get into the play-offs – and after last season’s seventh place finish when they finished only two points behind Derby, there’s no reason why they can’t challenge.
It seems Preston are going in the right direction – 7th last season, 11th the season before. Is that your sense, and what are you looking for this time?
They are looking at the play-offs, although seventh to sixth is a big step for just one position. He’s improved the depth of the squad over the summer although you might say the starting XI is similar to what it was. Since 2013, Preston have had a year-on-year improvement in position, bar successive 11th place finishes in 2016 and 2017. If that trend continues….
What are the keys to you succeeding this season?
Improving the goalscoring record will be a factor, as is learning to break down teams who sit deep at Deepdale. Last season, the away record was better than at home.
Injuries will also play their part – there was a spell last season when we had eight defenders out at the same time and lost four on the bounce. If they can avoid a mad spell like that, the squad has the depth to do well.
Which players should Norwich and their fans be watching out for on Wednesday? How’s Declan Rudd doing?
The key man is Ben Pearson, a midfielder who likes to put his foot in and drive North End forward. He likes a yellow card but very much makes them tick.
Lukas Nmecha has come on loan from Manchester City and while still raw at first-team level, has bags of pace and potential.
Alan Browne was last season’s supporters player of the year and players’ player of the year. An all-round midfielder, the Republic of Ireland international is a big figure.
Declan Rudd is doing fine. There was always a feeling he would come back to Preston after the loan spells of a few years ago. He was injured for the first few months of last season but returned to be first-choice keeper from the end of January onwards. He’s started this season as No.1, saving a penalty at Swansea the other week. Rudd has strong competition from Chris Maxwell.
What’s your score prediction? (We always ask)
Missed chances, defensive frailties and a last-minute winner, provided Chris Wilder with the opportunity to demonstrate that he’s as classless in victory as he is in defeat.
But Billy Sharp’s goal at least catapulted ‘Mystic Martin’ to the top of our prediction panel, above the random, score-generating, Siri and ‘The Oppo’; represented last time by the supposedly satirical, ‘Wilder-esque’, Blades fan, Sam.
While the league table doesn’t lie, it hides certain truths, but what do our panel make of it all?
Penney predicts: It’s time for our first win of the season and who better to achieve it against than money-wasting Alex? 2-1 City.
Andy assumes: A first-midweek experience under the Carrow Road lights for some of our lads will inspire them against a well-drilled but tepid-in-attack Preston. 2-0 City
Gaz (G) guesses: In the spirit of positivity, based on our improved attacking play while completely ignoring our defensive frailties, I’ll tentatively go 1-0 City (Declan Rudd OG).
Cookie concludes: Small margins, lady luck etc etc. Under the lights at Carrow Road, we’ll sing our way to a 2-0 City victory. Bring it on!
Stew suspects: It’s got to happen some time! A close-fought game, but City to edge this one. 2-1, including another for Rhodes.
The oppo’s opinion: 2-1 PNE! (or, as we like to call it 1-2).
Siri says: ‘The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog’. 3-2 City.
Join the ‘fun’ by adding your predictions in the comments below. We’re keeping track and will publish a regular monthly update with the ‘full league table’.