Meet the opposition | Preston North End
As Swansea City prepare to face Preston North End in their first Championship game of the season, we take a closer look at the Lilywhites.
What’s their story?
Preston have firmly established themselves in the second tier since their promotion from League One at the end of the 2014-15 season, and have regularly been in the Championship play-off hunt during that time.
The Lilywhites came close to Premier League promotion on three separate occasions in their last spell in the Championship, reaching a play-off final in 2005 before losing semi-finals in 2006 and 2009.
They are one of few sides who have twice lifted the FA Cup, once in 1889 and again in 1938 – with the latter being first FA Cup final to be broadcast on live television.
They were also the First Division champions during the maiden year of the Football League in 1888-89, and followed that up by retaining the title the following season.
The 1888-89 side is known as ‘The Invincibles’ having won the first-ever league and cup ‘Double’ without losing a game.
How did they fare last season?
Preston had looked set to get over their line in their quest to reach the play-offs when they established themselves in the top six prior to the suspension of the 2019-20 campaign.
However, they could not hit the same heights when the season eventually resumed, winning just two of their final nine games as they eventually finished ninth, four points off the top six.
They started this term with an emphatic 4-0 win over Mansfield in the Carabao Cup.
Who’s the boss?
Alex Neil. A former midfielder, Neil was appointed as Preston manager in July 2017 following the departure of Simon Grayson, who left to take over as manager of Sunderland.
Neil started his managerial career at Scottish side Hamilton Academical in 2013, having skippered them when former Swans assistant Billy Reid held the managerial reins.
He went on to be appointed as player-manager on an interim basis and led the club to promotion back to the Scottish Premier League in his first full season in charge.
Neil took charge of Norwich City in January 2015 and enjoyed a phenomenal first few months in charge, leading the Canaries to promotion to the top-flight with a play-off final victory over Middlesbrough.
However, their time in the top-flight lasted less than 12 months as they suffered relegation in the following season.
He left Carrow Road in March 2017 and joined Preston in July of the same year.
Neil led North End to an excellent seventh-placed finish in his first season in charge, followed by two further play-off challenging campaigns.
Who are the key men?
While, at the time of writing, Preston have not made any additions to their squad, they have retained their key performers from last term.
Midfielder Daniel Johnson netted 12 goals in all competitions and his drive and energy are key attributes for Neil’s side.
The excellent Ben Pearson dictates play in possession, while they also have the considerable knowledge and experience of Alan Browne – and his goalscoring knack - to call upon in the middle of the park.
Declan Rudd has long been a reliable option between the sticks, while Patrick Bauer and Ben Davies have been strong performers at the back.
Up top, the January acquisition of ex-Swan Scott Sinclair proved a smart piece of business and the forward will be looking to build on his three goals in 18 appearances from last term after having half-a-season under his belt in new surroundings.
Tom Barkhuizen heads into the campaign on the back of his best season to date at Deepdale, having netted 11 times last term.