The season has gone on a little longer than anybody could have possibly imagined, but we’re nearly at the end of his drawn-out campaign.
Preston travel to take on Bristol City on Wednesday night, with the curtain coming down on the club’s season.
It hasn’t ended quite as people had imagined. North End were top of the table in November, and came back from the pandemic-induced break sitting in the top six.
However, North End are mathematically out of the playoff race, and now face another season in the Championship having sadly faded away over the course of the season.
At this time of year, clubs name their award-winners. That will no doubt come soon, and we wanted to name our Player of the Year too, showing appreciation for North End’s top performer.
The attention naturally goes to Ben Davies and Ben Pearson, but our Player of the Year goes to midfielder Daniel Johnson after a superb campaign.
It’s not difficult to remember that Johnson could have gone last July. We broke the news late in July 2019 that Wigan Athletic wanted to sign Johnson, but no deal was done in the end.
Some would have been happy for Johnson to go. The Jamaican had been branded inconsistent and frustrating, but fast forward a year and it’s hard to imagine a North End line-up without him.
The 27-year-old – barring a freak result at Bristol City – will end the season as Preston’s top goalscorer with 12 goals despite being a midfielder, whilst he tops the club’s assist charts with six.
That’s 18 goal contributions from Johnson; for context, his first two seasons under Alex Neil brought 17 goals contributions combined, summing up just how impressive Johnson has been this term.
Johnson has made North End tick in midfield, providing real quality and creativity in the final third whilst emerging as the club’s first-choice number 10.
In years gone by, he has lost out to Alan Browne in the battle for that number 10 role, and often seemed a little restricted when playing in a deeper midfield role.
Now freed up to go forward and express himself going forward, Johnson has been the shining light for North End and is fully deserving of being Player of the Year ahead of Davies and Pearson.
Five-and-a-half years since joining from Aston Villa in a bargain £50,000 move, Johnson now appears to be hitting his prime, and has really proven himself as one of the Championship’s top midfielders.
The fear for North End is that Johnson is out of contract in 2021. Let’s pray that Preston can get a new deal for Johnson, as he certainly deserves an improved contract following an outstanding campaign.
Without a new deal, Preston may be at risk of losing Johnson – and we simply can’t afford to lose our top goalscorer and most creative force.