A game which was overshadowed by damaging speculation: Alex Neil the self-confessed thorn in Preston’s side.
Post-match, an uncomfortable Neil squirmed in his seat as he offered a meaningless apology to the Preston fans on a day he singlehandedly ruined:
This was a day for the fans, a day for rememberance and a day of celebration, but the players looked distant and engrossed in speculation their manager had refused to refute.
It’s been a turbulent week off the pitch and one which needs a conclusion as soon as possible.
Neil went from outright denial to complete uncertainty, and to his own sobering admission:
“I don’t want to say definitely yes and definitely no and be a hypocrite. The problem is I’m not in control of the situation.”
West Brom were a classy opposition today, slicing through Preston like a block of Lancashire cheese.
The Lilywhites struggled to muster a reply to their rampant hosts, who went into the interval with a tidy advantage after a three goal unanswered blitz.
PNE stepped up a gear in the second half as they looked to add parity, but they were punished for their profligacy when the Killer Gayle notched his hattrick – 4-0 to the hosts.
Preston simply lacked ideas, they lacked ambition and this cannot have been helped by the lack of commitment shown from above.
Arguably that is not a proper excuse, the performance was simply woeful at times, but Alex Neil has, for once, shown a real lack of professionalism leading to understandable outrage from the fans.
West Brom certainly added fuel to the inferno midweek by blatantly confirming their interest in Alex Neil, a purposeful stunt which achieved its goal of upsetting a young Preston squad.
But failing to applaud the travelling fans, who stuck around for the entire 90, is a real kick in the teeth.
The players came over and appreciated the supporters, but Neil was nowhere to be seen. Where was he then?
Probably off signing his new deal and collecting the keys for his new company car.
As us fans trudged away from the Smethwick End, there was a clear mood among the travelling faithful: frustration.
Whether Neil stays or goes, only he knows. But we’ve got to remember that players and managers come and go, what doesn’t, is our support.
It’ll be an interesting few days.
Follow our Instagram @prestonupdates for the fastest updates on social media.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org to write for us!