Behind Enemy Lines: Preston North End

MILLWALL are looking to kick off their 2019-20 season with a win, having begun their last two Championship campaigns with a loss and a draw respectively.

Fans are upbeat heading into the new season with renewed optimism after Neil Harris' squad overhaul, with many expecting the Lions to finish further up the table and avoid a relegation battle as dogged as last season's.

Preston, meanwhile, will have their sights set on a play-off spot having missed out in 2018-19.

Alex Neil's side have made some smart moves in the transfer window, though losing Callum Robinson is sure to hit the Deepdale outfit hard.

Lucas Ball spoke to North End fan and Great Britain/England Hockey player David Ames this week.

Twitter: @DavidAmes5

Why do you support Preston?

Surprisingly, I used to be a footballer when I was a youngster and so I spent some time as a scholar with North End. I had a few legends of the club coach me at the time and I started supporting from then on. Unfortunately I never quite made it and went on to be a not-so-glamorous hockey player.

What's been your favourite season following North End?

I think the 2004-05 season getting to the play-off final against West Ham was probably the most enjoyable one as a North End fan. We haven't quite managed those heights recently but hopefully this season we can do something special.

And the worst?

The 2010-11 season was a tough one after being relegated from the Championship. The two years after were probably harder as we didn't get even close to promotion from League One and so it seemed like we would be stuck there forever.

This is a simple answer, I presume, but is Alex Neil the right man for the job?

Yes. I do like him and feel he deserves this season at least to push on. I'm a big believer in backing whoever is at the top. I've no doubt he has the capability to help us push for a play-off spot this year.

What have you made of Preston's summer transfer business?

Pretty disappointing, to be honest. Losing Callum Robinson is is big without gaining a huge amount from the money we got for him. Dave Nugent obviously has an incredible history with our club and hopefully he can re-ignite that spark he had many years ago.

Where else do you still need to strengthen? 

Goalkeeper. Declan Rudd is a good keeper, but it's our biggest area of weakness.

What are your overall expectations for the season?

I'm hoping we can push for a play-off spot. We all know in this league you need to gather momentum as quickly and for as long as possible. It's the toughest league in the world and everyone has seen teams that put runs together at the right time end up pushing for the top-six places. Let's hope we can be in that category this season.

What do you make of Millwall's prospects heading into this season? 

Honestly it's a lottery at this stage. Small budget but they've made some good signings in the summer. I'm sure most fans would be glad to see them finish five/six places higher than last season.

Who will be Neil's key men?

Sean Maguire and Ben Pearson. Both were terrific last season and are the real drivers of winning matches in our squad.

Which Lions players will you be looking out for?

No idea. Looking out more for PNE players, if I'm honest.

What do you think of Neil Harris?

Millwall legend. Someone who cares and has been at the club for as long as he has deserves the respect and time to gel his side even in the toughest of times.

If you could sign one Lions player, who would it be and why? 

Frank Fielding. Proven goalkeeper at this level.

What's your predicted Preston starting XI?

Rudd, Clarke, Hughes, Pearson, Bauer, Davies, Barkhuizen, Gallagher, Maguire, Browne, Potts.

Will you be at the game on Saturday?

I won't. I'm in sunny Barcelona on international duty for the Four Nations tournament.

Finally, a score prediction?

Millwall 1-3 North End

Graphic: @ShedCreative