Preston an example of what can be done, insists Wigan Athletic chief
Wigan Athletic boss Paul Cook has heaped praise on opposite number Alex Neil for keep Preston in play-off contention which ‘they probably don’t have any right to be doing’.
The north-west neighbours do battle at the DW in the early kick-off on Saturday, with Latics knowing a win would lift them out of the bottom three, and North End aiming for three points that would take them up into the top six.
It promises to be a real Lancashire hotpot, against a side Cook feels are punching well above their weight.
“Preston’s a game you always look forward to on the calendar,” the Latics manager said.
“It’s a massive derby match, against what must be said is a very, very good team.
“I don’t want to sit here and give Preston all kinds of superlatives.
“But even if Alex was to just maintain what they’ve been doing so far, they’ll have had an absolutely outstanding season.
“They continually get results, Alex continually gets the best out of his group.
“They’re pushing for the play-offs which, on a level playing field, they probably don’t have any right to be doing.
“That’s great credit to the manager and the staff, we’ve always got on well with them and we’ll have a nice drink after the game again on Saturday.
“On paper, they’re probably not one of the strongest sides in the division.
“But you don’t play games on paper, you play it on grass with two goals at the end, and his side are very committed, honest – with a lot of talent as well.”
One of the reasons for Preston’s fine season has been in-form midfielder Daniel Johnson, who Cook knows well from their time together at Chesterfield.
“I played a small part in Daniel’s career, when he came on loan to Chesterfield...it seems a long time ago now,” said Cook.
“Daniel’s an outstanding player, he’s an outstanding lad to be around, and he’s capable of having a big effect on the game this weekend.
“He plays for Preston, though, and we’re concentrating on our players, and the team we can put out.”
Johnson could even have been a Latics player this afternoon, with Cook making an unsuccessful enquiry about his services last summer.
Not that he was keen to talk about it ahead of today’s encounter.
“It’s not a topic that needs to be discussed, or which merits any kind of conversation,” he added.
“There’s a million conversations in football that go on.
“He’s a very strong Preston player, and I’m sure it’ll stay that for a long time to come.”