For a while now, we’ve called for Preston to somewhat revamp their recruitment structure after some frustrating transfer windows.
North End haven’t been using the market to its full potential, and that’s why Preston find themselves with so much work to do now.
Eight signings came in during the January window, but only one – Ben Whiteman – is currently signed up beyond the end of the season. Across the last three transfer windows, Preston have only made three permanent signings.
That simply isn’t good enough, and has certainly held Preston back over the last couple of seasons, with a disappointing campaign this season somewhat unsurprising.
Now, Preston have made an interesting off-pitch move by bringing in Barnsley’s James Beet, making him North End’s new senior recruitment analyst ahead of the summer transfer window.
It’s unclear just how much power Beet will have, but looking into Barnsley’s recent transfers could give Preston fans reason for encouragement.
The Tykes have, in all honesty, shown North End up in recent times. They have utilised the transfer market exceptionally, bringing in talented young players who can be sold on for profit in the future.
When it comes to managers, they managed to bring in not one but two Europa League managers; firstly Gerhard Struber from Wolfsberger, then Valerian Ismael from LASK Linz, raiding the Austrian market admirably.
Barnsley now find themselves sixth in the Championship table, occupying the final play-off spot after a staggering run of seven wins in a row.
Ismael’s side have become the feel-good story of the season, and with many Preston fans no doubt wanting North End to follow in their lead, Beet’s arrival could be the start of a new approach at Deepdale.
Their recruitment can be broken down into some key areas, some of which Preston either haven’t used very much or used to use and have moved away from in recent times.
One area Barnsley have excelled is bringing in foreign talent, mostly from Europe. Beet was on board from 2018, and they have been prolific in the European market since then, raiding teams in Holland, France, Germany, Austria, Denmark, Belgium and Poland.
Some of their signings have been outstanding; Mads Juel Andersen, Michal Helik and Michael Sollbauer have formed a strong back three of late; they arrived from Denmark, Poland and Austria respectively.
Preston’s stance has been that they focus mostly on the English market because it’s easier to project their impact rather than making a more risky signing from abroad.
That’s an understandable stance as Preston can’t really afford to waste money, but they have ultimately been wasting money in the UK market too, by bringing in players who haven’t been good enough. Barnsley managed to put together that back three for less than £3million.
Preston did sign Emil Riis from Randers in October, but that was the first permanent signing directly from a foreign club since Keammar Daley in August 2011. The Brexit regulations mean bringing in foreign signings has become a little more difficult, but signings can still be made from outside of England – and Beet’s experience around that kind of recruitment should see North End try.
Signing youngsters from ‘bigger’ clubs
This is something Preston used to take advantage of, signing Ben Pearson from Manchester United as well as Daniel Johnson and Callum Robinson from Aston Villa to great effect.
Since Josh Harrop’s arrival in 2017, Preston have slowed down their recruitment via these methods, and many have been left perplexed as to why that change has emerged.
There are plenty of promising players in Premier League Under-23 sides that are waiting for a chance in senior football – and Barnsley have managed to operate in that market well.
Romal Palmer is a great case. The midfielder was on the Manchester City books before leaving in 2018. Barnsley swooped in, signed Palmer on a free and he now finds himself as a first-team regular for the Tykes.
Goalkeeper Brad Collins came in from Chelsea, a quadruple swoop for Leeds talents Alex Wollerton, Aapo Halme, Clarke Oduor and Mallik Wilks materialised in 2019 and they also lured Isaac Christie-Davies and Herbie Kane from Liverpool.
The approach has been working well for Barnsley, and is something that Preston could stand to focus on again, especially with so many big Premier League clubs – Everton, Liverpool, Manchester City and Manchester United – in the local region.
One thing Barnsley have in their favour is that they have an established Under-23 setup. Preston don’t have that, and have shown no indication that they will in the near future.
That may be an issue when showing youngsters from ‘bigger’ clubs that they have a pathway to first-team football, but this is still a market that Preston have overlooked in recent years and need to focus on again in the future.
Signing talent from down the pyramid
A lot of Preston’s permanent signings have come from League One, and we’ve raised concerns about the age profile being brought into the club.
Joe Rafferty and Jayden Stockley were particular concerns for us in the sense of them not quite having the potential for profit on resale, and not quite having the quality to improve us.
Tom Bayliss was the right kind of recruitment, but for whatever reason, Alex Neil just hasn’t taken to him at Preston, and North End do need to get back to finding young gems – preferably under the age of 24 – in order to develop them and potentially sell on in the future.
During Beet’s time at Barnsley, the Tykes have done his brilliantly, leaving no stone unturned in their pursuit of landing hot prospects for the future.
Callum Styles was an inspired capture from Bury, whilst Callum Brittain – a player we believe Preston did look at last summer when considering right back additions – has impressed since coming in from Milton Keynes Dons.
They added defensive depth in January with Liam Kitching from Forest Green Rovers, seeing real potential in him at just 21, whilst they have even shown a willingness to dip into non-league additions by signing Elliot Simoes from FC United of Manchester in 2018.
Preston have lost their two most saleable assets in Ben Pearson and Ben Davies. North End now need to bring in more young talent that can be sold for the future, and Barnsley’s recruitment approach during Beet’s time at the club should give fans hope of a new Preston in the coming windows.