The January transfer window came to an end on Thursday, and North End were unsurprisingly quiet.
That’s because most of the business was done early in the window, leaving little to do in the final hours.
North End completed 12 deals in total last month, so let’s round them up here.
Connor Ripley: Goalkeeper Ripley arrived from Middlesbrough having impressed on loan at Accrington Stanley earlier this season. He hasn’t yet appeared for North End, but will compete with Declan Rudd for playing time. Some may question whether Ripley as A) better than Chris Maxwell and B) suitable as a future first choice. Time will tell, but he appears to be great competition with some real potential, whilst his size and stature is appealing.
Joe Rafferty: One of the biggest needs heading into January was to sign a right back. Darnell Fisher endured a dismal first half of the season, and Tom Clarke was even preferred there recently. North End failed with a £300,000 bid for Accrington’s Callum Johnson, and we understand a £650,000 bid for Sheffield United’s Kieron Freeman was rejected too. North End landed a right back in the end, snapping up Rochdale’s Joe Rafferty. A fee is likely to have been around the £150,000 mark, giving the 25-year-old his big Championship move after nearly seven years at Spotland. Rafferty’s move doesn’t exactly set pulses racing, but he seems to be a solid performer, and will hopefully push Fisher back to his best.
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Brad Potts: For the first time in a long, long time, North End paid seven figures for a player. Midfielder Potts came in from Barnsley, with Preston understood to have paid around £1.3million for him, just shy of a club record. Potts has made a remarkable impact already, scoring twice in four games for the club. His versatility has been seen already, playing centrally and out wide, and he just seems to fit Alex Neil’s Preston perfectly. His size and driving runs from midfield are ideal for North End, and he still has room to develop at 24. Dare I say it, Potts may even be lined up as Alan Browne’s successor at Deepdale too.
Josh Ginnelly: Yet to feature for North End, Ginnelly is clearly something of a punt. The 21-year-old hit four goals and one assist for Walsall in the first half of the season, attracting North End’s attention. With his contract expiring at the end of the season, Preston snapped him up on the cheap. A quick winger who predominantly plays on the left, Ginnelly is one for next season really, and will spend the coming months learning Alex Neil’s style.
Jayden Stockley: The big, physical striker North End have been looking for! Stockley, 25, joined North End for £750,000 last month, and arrived with a superb record for Exeter. Stockley 40 goals in 75 games for the League Two side, and scored the most headers of anyone in Europe in 2018. He’s grabbed one goal in four outings so far, offering a workhorse focal point that North End have missed. He still has some adjusting to do in the Championship; being a little nastier as a target man and become a tad more clinical, but the signs have been promising so far.
Calum Woods: The only permanent exit from Deepdale last month, Woods has joined Bradford City. A reliable defender under Simon Grayson having worked together at Huddersfield, Woods played an important part for North End. Many will remember him really starring in the 2015-16 Championship season, before suffering a major injury. He never really got back to his best, and at almost 32, it makes sense for North End to move him on with their best wishes.
Chris Maxwell: Clearly unhappy at being second choice, Maxwell moved out on loan to Charlton Athletic for the rest of the season. North End had plans to sign a new goalkeeper anyway, so his exit freed up Connor Ripley to come in. The Welshman has yet to feature for the Addicks though, unable to supplant Dillon Phillips in goal. It currently looks unlikely that he’ll join them permanently, so he may end up back at Deepdale this summer.
Conor Simpson: Beanpole striker Simpson impressed with six goals in 11 games at Hyde earlier this season, and Preston recalled him during injury crisis. He failed to play at all though, and has since been loaned to League Two side Carlisle United. Simpson was initially credited with the winning goal in the 1-0 victory over Port Vale last weekend, but has since denied touching the ball. A loan move to Brunton Park is ideal for the 19-year-old right now, and hopefully he’ll return a much improved player this summer.
Michael Howard: Howard starred on loan at Hednesford Town earlier this season, scoring six times in 12 games. North End have now recalled him, and he has joined Stalybridge Celtic on loan until the end of the campaign. With his contract up at the end of the season, it seems unlikely that the 19-year-old will earn a new deal at Deepdale, but he has another chance to impress now.
Ben Pringle: The ultimate forgotten man. Pringle’s last game for North End came in December 2016, and he hasn’t played at all under Alex Neil. Pringle spent the first half of 2018 at Oldham and the second with Grimsby, and has now joined up with Tranmere Rovers. Another one whose contract expires this summer, Pringle will clearly never play for North End again. His 2016 move from Fulham has been a complete disaster.
Andy Boyle: Boyle arrived with some reasonable hype, but is another forgotten man. The defender has appeared just five times under Neil, and is another of the loaned-out crew. After a stint with Doncaster Rovers, Boyle spent the first half of this season with Dundee, making 13 appearances. The Irishman has returned to Scotland, joining Ross County on loan until his Preston contract ends this summer, when he will leave for free.
Graham Burke: Another player struggling with the move from Ireland to England, Burke hasn’t impressed at Deepdale. Some poor performances during the injury crisis seemingly made Neil’s mind up; Burke had to go out on loan. On deadline day, the playmaker joined Gillingham until the end of the season, and he made his debut against Coventry City on Saturday. The official line may be that he needs to play first-team football in order to make the grade at Preston. My personal take is that this will put him in the shop window for a permanent summer exit.