PRESTON boss Alex Neil insisted he “didn’t expect a Premier League move” for Ben Pearson before he linked up with Cherries.

The midfielder is set to make the journey back to Deepdale to face off against his former employers with the Dorset club tomorrow (3pm).

Pearson was snapped up by former Cherries boss Jason Tindall in January for a minimal fee and has since played five times for Jonathan Woodgate’s side.

Oldham-born Pearson’s last appearance for North End came in a 2-2 home draw against Wycombe on December 5.

Speaking about the midfielder, Lilywhites manager Neil said: “I didn’t expect a Premier League move at that point because we knew his contract was running down for a length of time, his agent would have been doing his job which is try and generate as much interest as possible.

“If a Premier League team were going to come in for him, like Ben Davies, they don’t mess around.

“They say. ‘There’s the money’ and then the player isn’t there any longer.

“There was an extended period of time where that could have happened for Ben but there was no sign of it happening.”

He added: “They’ve got the likes of Jefferson Lerma in there who they paid £25million for, they’ve got Phillip Billing who has played in the Premier League, Lewis Cook, Jack Wilshere, they’ve got a whole host of players who can fulfil Ben’s role as well.”

Pearson played 165 times for Preston in all competitions during a five-year spell – including in a 3-2 win for the Lancashire side at Vitality Stadium in December.

And manager Neil is not worried about the 26-year-old having any inside knowledge of how is side operates.

He said: “If you deny space, you deny space, irrespective of whether you know it’s coming or not. What he will do is have an understanding.

“But being brutally honest, if you’re at Bournemouth and you watched our last game against them, you’ll have an understanding anyway.

“When you’re playing any team, you’ll know what’s coming.

“There’s knowing what’s coming and then there’s the performance from each individual and stopping it – they’re two different things.

“It’ll be on how well we can do it and how well they can try and counter it.”

North End are currently 14th in the Championship standings, 12 points adrift of promotion-chasing Cherries.