The name Michael Devlin may not mean a great deal to Preston fans, but he was involved in a bizarre transfer situation with North End.
It was January 2018, and North End were pursuing a playoff place. Alex Neil had three centre backs at his disposal; Ben Davies, Paul Huntington and Tom Clarke. Tommy Spurr and Calum Woods were able to play there in emergencies, but injury woes meant another defender could have been targeted.
Devlin was suddenly linked with Preston. Then with Hamilton Academical, Devlin had emerged under Neil with the Scottish side. At the time, he was just back from a major knee injury, but a reunion with Neil made some sense.
Inside the final six months of his Hamilton contract, Devlin was clearly gearing up to move. That’s where Preston were thrown into the situation.
Hamilton chairman Ronnie MacDonald told the Daily Record in January 2018 that he had struck an agreement with Preston for Devlin to move to Deepdale.
MacDonald confidently suggested he had agreed a ‘fair’ price with Preston, even going as far as to say he would be with Preston for the trip to face Sheffield United. All seemed to be going well, until Preston completely denied any sort of move.
North End officially announced on Twitter that no agreement was in place, in what was a bizarre set of events. Not long after that, Devlin completed a move to Aberdeen.
The best explanation is that Neil and his former chairman joined forces to try and lure Aberdeen into a move, rather than risk waiting for his contract to run out.
Devlin now in line for big career moment
The 26-year-old has been a regular for Aberdeen ever since, and his form has seen him recalled by Scotland. Devlin has been in the squad on a couple of occasions, but never made his debut.
This time though, it could be different. The Scottish Sun note that Charlie Mulgrew will start as one centre back against Russia tomorrow, but his partner is unclear. Devlin is in contention for a first cap, with Stuart Findlay and Declan Gallagher in the squad too.
Scotland’s centre back crisis has seen John Souttar, Scott McKenna, Liam Cooper, David Bates, Craig Halkett and Grant Hanley all go down with injury, giving Devlin a chance to play.
Almost two years since that bizarre Preston saga, Devlin is making strides, with his Aberdeen switch paying dividends. Still, we may never know just why Hamilton claimed he’d been sold to North End.