Preston may need to be eyeing up left-footed centre backs this summer, given questions over Ben Davies’s future at Deepdale.
Davies is out of contract in 2021, and having sold Callum Robinson inside the final year of his deal last summer, it’s reasonable to expect the same fate for homegrown star Davies.
He’s the biggest success story of the Alex Neil era, going from forgotten man to undroppable centre back, showing off speed, composure and the ability to play out from the back.
The big factor is that he’s a left-footed centre back, and Neil loves the balance he brings – so much so that when Davies was ruled out against Blackburn Rovers in October, Neil shifted left back Andrew Hughes to centre back to try and replicate that balance.
If Davies leaves, Preston need to find another left-footed defender to replace him, and one player linked with North End last summer does fit the bill.
National media reports claimed that Preston wanted Liverpool defender George Johnston, but ultimately ended up missing out as Dutch side Feyenoord forked out £500,000 to sign him on a permanent basis.
The 21-year-old could have a bright future having been highly regarded at Liverpool, but his move to the Netherlands maybe hasn’t quite gone to plan. Johnston has yet to even make a single first-team appearance for the Eredivisie side, instead spending his time in the reserves.
Heading from Liverpool reserves to Feyenoord reserves isn’t exactly a step up, and he needs to be playing first-team football if he’s to realise his potential in the coming years.
If Johnston’s fortunes don’t improve, it wouldn’t be a huge surprise to see Preston offer the Manchester-born talent a quick return to English football; after all, Oxford United did the same with Feyenoord teammate Liam Kelly.
Left-footed centre backs aren’t easy to find, and having missed out on Johnston last summer, he’s a name that should remain on the radar as Preston consider life after Davies.