With the transfer window upon us, Preston fans are hoping for big additions. Alex Neil has talked about more experience being needed at Deepdale, and having signed a new contract to stay for three years, he may just get a boost to his budget.
A number of holes need to be filled in the North End squad, and the approach will be fascinating. Often delving into the lower leagues for players, Neil may now hope for bigger names.
One aspect that will need to be tackled is the loan market. Since Neil’s arrival, Preston have made just three loan signings. Arsenal’s Stephy Mavididi was a flop in 2017, whilst Manchester City duo Brandon Barker and Lukas Nmecha divided opinion last season.
With no major successes from the three, it’s understandable if North End look away from loans. However, we’ve seen recently just how important they’ve become in the Championship.
Just look at the playoff final. Aston Villa won the game, and fielded five loanees during the game. Tyrone Mings, Kortney Hause, Tammy Abraham and Axel Tuanzebe are all owned by Premier League clubs, with Anwar El Ghazi on loan from Lille.
On the other side, Derby lined up with Fikayo Tomori, Mason Mount and Harry Wilson, all on loan. Chelsea helped out Frank Lampard with the Tomori and Mount deals, whilst the Wilson move shows the issue for Preston.
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The Liverpool winger starred with 16 league goals, but Derby alleged paid a huge fee to get him. The Yorkshire Evening Post believe that the Rams paid £3million just to take Wilson on loan for a year.
That’s twice North End’s permanent transfer record, just for a loan deal. Preston are unlikely to ever pay that kind of money for a loan. Instead, Preston’s current strategy is signing young players with resale value, rather than paying big for loanees who won’t be long-term players.
That £3m got Derby a deal for Wilson, but North End got Jordan Storey, Ryan Ledson and Brad Potts for under £3million in the last year. It’s hard to argue with that approach, especially as Derby will be in the Championship with us next season. Preston may well go back to Manchester City for more loan deals this summer, but big-name additions are unlikely.
It once again puts North End at a disadvantage in terms of finances, which of course we’re used to by now. North End would no doubt love to be able to get in a Mings, an Abraham, a Mount, a Wilson, it’s just not possible. Clubs in the Championship are paying huge money to take quality players – who largely have no business playing in the second tier – temporarily.
Preston face a conundrum as a result. Do we stick to signing young players permanently and selling them on? Or, having seen how quality loanees can get you into the top six, push the boat out for one or two big loan signings to aid Neil’s squad? For now, the current approach makes perfect sense for a club our size, but the current wave of loan signings making a huge impact in the Championship is becoming hard to ignore, and may leave North End considering their options.