The summer transfer window is just starting to get going, but there have been no North End moves just yet.
Preston are being linked with a whole host of players, almost one a day at this point. Yet Alex Neil and co are yet to make their move, taking a patient approach so far.
With that in mind, a host of fans had questions for us to answer, covering a whole range of topics. Let’s get into the questions and answers…
Neil is unlikely to want wholesale changes, but it’s clear that North End need reinforcements. A goalkeeper, centre back, left back, playmaker, winger and striker should be brought in, making it at least six. Another midfielder may yet be added, so we’ll go with a maximum of seven, barring any unexpected departures. We’d maybe expect the likes of Declan Rudd, Chris Maxwell, Paul Huntington, Josh Earl, Graham Burke, Callum Robinson and Louis Moult to move on in those positions, so those would be the areas to attack.
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This one is tricky. North End are never going to go and spend £3million, £4million, £5million on players. Even if a big sale comes in, that’s not going to happen. Sheffield United made the leap by spending on proven Championship quality, but John Egan and Oliver Norwood set them back over £6million. That’s not the market North End are in, so those types of players will be out of our price range for sure.
However, the Brad Potts deal showed what North End can do. Players in the £1million to £2million bracket who can come in and make an instant impact. With another two or three Potts-like signings, North End can take a huge jump forward without needing to challenge the ‘big boys’ for signings.
Speaking of Brad Potts…
It’s hard not to be excited about Potts. He made an immediate impact after his arrival, and missed just 40 minutes in his 10 games. Neil seems to love him, and his versatility only adds to that. Potts can play out wide or centrally, with his shuttling role with Alan Browne working particularly well in the 4-1-4-1. Preston didn’t lose with Potts in the side, and lost immediately after his season-ending injury. We’re expecting Potts to be a crucial figure next season, based purely off how impressive he was after signing.
Ben Pearson’s future
Again, a tricky question. Pearson is arguably our most talented player. His tackling, reading of the game and passing range paint the picture of a Premier League player. However, we all know his major problem – discipline. Premier League clubs may be put off by his yellow and red cards, whilst joining another Championship would hardly be a step forward. He has two years left on his deal, so it wouldn’t be a surprise if North End stand strong and keep Pearson for one more push at promotion before having to sell him next summer. If a Premier League club come calling with considerable money – and we’re talking eight figures here – then North End will be open to a deal.
That’s hard to hear, but we have to be realistic. Any North End player would jump at a Premier League move, so he’d go with our blessing. Aston Villa may be a team to keep an eye on, as they’re needing a combative midfielder after releasing Glenn Whelan and Mile Jedinak. Dean Smith will know all about Pearson from the Championship, and that kind of move makes sense if Pearson was to go.
The word ‘experienced’ has been thrown around so much this summer, and it’s been misconstrued by some. When Neil made the comment about wanting more experience, he referenced the Potts deal; a 24-year-old with Championship experience as well as potential, who could come in and make an immediate impact. It’s unlikely that he meant going for a 30-year-old striker on big wages.
With that in mind, a striker should be brought in. It’s tough to say, but Louis Moult may well be moved on. Luton Town have been interested, and he’s third choice behind Jayden Stockley and Seani Maguire. Letting Moult go to get in another forward makes sense, but finding one is tricky.
Burnley’s Nahki Wells ticks some boxes, having won promotion from the Championship and played as a lone striker for Huddersfield Town. He’s just turned 29, meaning he may be a little older than Neil had been looking for, but he can still score at this level.
Peterborough’s Ivan Toney was wanted by North End last summer, but may now be out of our price range. Bristol Rovers’ Jonson Clarke-Harris has been linked and is of a similar type, but his erratic career makes him a questionable choice. You almost hate to bring him up, but Jordan Hugill may just fit too. It would be a surprise if North End didn’t bring in a striker, but where they’ll get one from is another matter.
North End’s promotion chances
It feels that way, yes. That great run at the beginning of the year showcased what an exciting side North End can be. Champions Norwich were dispatched with ease at Deepdale, and we became hard to beat again. Getting back to that is key, but it will depend on injuries too.
The Championship doesn’t look overly strong next season. Fulham should be a force, but questions marks hang over Cardiff City and Huddersfield Town. Add in that some of the major clubs – Leeds United, Derby County, West Bromwich Albion – are facing Financial Fair Play issues, and this feels like a chance for North End to really make a go of it.
We’ve reported the interest in Aro Muric and Luka Ilic, and we’d wager the two Premier League players being the Manchester City pair. Nothing confirmed on that front, but it would make sense. As for the two players in the Championship last season, you do wonder who they’ll be. We haven’t heard a peep on those two players, but the wording makes you think they were in the Championship, but aren’t right now.
Rotherham duo Semi Ajayi and Will Vaulks are great talents, but would cost big money. Bolton Wanderers midfielder Luca Connell is wanted by North End, whilst Sammy Ameobi is a player Neil has praised in the past, even if he wouldn’t be a personal favourite.
There’s a chance it’s a player who played in the division on loan last season. Hugill and Wells fit there, whilst Everton trio Antonee Robinson, Joe Williams and Callum Connolly make sense too. Connor Mahoney and Sean Raggett are two more Premier League players who spent last season in the Championship, and add up as North End targets.
For now, we have no idea who could be arriving, but the wording really makes you wonder.
Sadly, it feels a little like the chance has gone now. Nugent has been released by Derby, but scored just two league goals this past season. At 34, he’s far from the player he was in his first spell at North End.
Moving to bring back Nugent on a free would be a nostalgic move, rather than a brilliant one. Nugent still has value in the Championship, as he’s a hard worker and can lead the line well. Yet if North End are to bring in another striker, it needs to be one with some form of athleticism – and you’d have to say Nugent can’t bring that now.
It’s worth noting this question was answered without watching a compilation of his Preston goals. Had that been the case, you may have received a different, rose-tinted answer…
This was a question we certainly didn’t envisage being asked. Yet when you think about it, it’s an interesting one. For some reason, North End brought in the Deepdale Duck mascot back in the 1992/93 season, despite the lamb being the ‘Prestonian animal’, if you will. We’ve now had Deepdale Duck for over 25 years, and we can find no information on just why a duck was chosen over a lamb. Maybe one to bring up at the next fans forum.
Assuming this means the building of the new training ground, it’s a case of status quo. And by that, we mean who on earth knows. North End have had planning permission for two years now, but no progress has been made. Chief executive John Kay gave some flimsy answer to the LEP in April, suggesting that a redesign is in the works. North End own the site, but the planning consent expires in February 2020. Preston need to get a move on, and it’s understandable that fans are growing frustrated now. If this is allowed to fade into nothing, it certainly won’t be forgotten, and nor should it.
The short answer is yes, absolutely. There’s plenty of value on the continent, but North End never look for it. The last signing North End made from abroad was Thorsten Stuckmann way back in 2011. Even he was a free agent, so you’d have to go back to Keammar Daley as the last player signed directly from a foreign club. How have North End gone nearly eight years without making an import signing?
You have to think this is a club strategy now. Neil and head of recruitment were happy to explore the foreign market at Norwich; Ivo Pinto, Timm Klose, Dieumerci Mbokani, Nelson Oliveira and Mitchell Dijks were all signed by Norwich under the now-Preston duo.
Neil suggested after landing Savage that he had a great knowledge of Europe. North End have yet to push for foreign imports, but surely that will change soon given how even third and fourth tier players in England are being valued now. It’s impressive that North End have found so many bargains, but there will surely come a point where we look outside of England, Ireland and Scotland. We’re not suggesting a mass influx of Germans like at Norwich, even if it worked for them, but the odd foreign signing here and there could strengthen the squad without breaking the bank.