Preston have brought in four new signings this month, and that was always going to mean one thing – players leaving the club.

We can expect Ben Pearson to move on in the near future, but Alex Neil has decided that two fringe players needed to go for the rest of the season.

Josh Harrop has dropped into League One with Ipswich Town, and Jayden Stockley has now followed having penned a deal with Charlton Athletic.

Both players will, as things stand, return to Deepdale in the summer, but the decision to let them go out on loan has sparked debate.

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Harrop is a hugely popular player in sections of the Preston fanbase; they see him as an exciting playmaker who can score great goals out of nothing – just look at his strikes against Blackburn Rovers and Charlton Athletic last season.

Preston North End v Brighton And Hove Albion - Carabao Cup Third Round
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Since rumours of Harrop potentially moving on emerged, those fans suggested that Alex Neil was getting it wrong, that he should be featuring in the first team rather than being loaned out.

The thing is though, who would Harrop be playing instead of? Daniel Johnson? Alan Browne? Jayson Molumby? Scott Sinclair? All four of those players impact the game more consistently than Harrop, and it’s no great surprise that he has only featured once since a dismal showing against Wycombe Wanderers.

The fact is that Harrop is now 25 and has only started 31 league games for Preston, three-and-a-half years since joining from Manchester United.

Yes, he was given a three-year deal last summer, but he hasn’t quite kicked on – and it’s now better for him to drop down and try to play regularly before hopefully coming back a more developed player.

Harrop could still have a future at Preston, but we find it a little harder to imagine Stockley being a first-team player at Preston next season.

Preston North End v Brighton And Hove Albion - Carabao Cup Third Round
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The 27-year-old has struggled for goals at Preston having arrived from Exeter City in January 2019, scoring just nine times in 69 outings.

This is another case of a player being in and around the first team but not starting regularly, leaving fans to feel like Stockley should be given more of a chance – just like Harrop.

It just hasn’t quite worked out for Stockley at Preston. He was seen as the eventual replacement for Jordan Hugill, but doesn’t possess the same movement, pressing or hold-up ability.

Stockley has won plenty of flick-ons, but in Neil’s usual 4-2-3-1 system, there haven’t really been players ahead of him to flick the ball on to, limiting his success.

A drop down into League One may help Stockley, and the fact is that he would have been fourth-choice striker between now and the end of the season, meaning it’s better for him to go and play elsewhere.

Maybe he comes back, maybe he ends up being sold off the back of his spell at Charlton, but Neil has made the right decision on his future – just as he has with Harrop too, even if some don’t love it.

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