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Bournemouth's Ben Pearson makes his first return to Preston North End today

The Pearo party is over at Deepdale.

We knew this day would eventually come, and as rumours increased over January, the inevitable happened. Ben Pearson left Preston North End.

He’s joined Bournemouth and although they’ve just come down from the top flight and have a chance of returning, many felt he would have moved on to even better things when he did leave the club.

He returns to Deepdale on Saturday with The Cherries, and he is already onto his second manager at the club after Jonathan Woodgate took over from Jason Tindall. The 26-year-old has started four games since his move including the last two and has yet to lose.

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Pearson was such a fan favourite in his five years at Deepdale. Seeing him in a Bournemouth shirt is like seeing an ex-partner with someone else. It hurts. Soon enough we’ll see the shaggy-haired midfielder running all over the pitch against us, no doubt winding up our players.

There’s no doubt he’s one of the best midfielders in this league. Bournemouth have got one hell of a talent on their hands. His endless energy, his passing ability, his reading of the game and his tackling. There’s so many iconic Pearo moments from his time in a North End shirt. His first goal for the club against Aston Villa when he went on to celebrate in front of their fans. His only other goal for the club coming last season at home to Barnsley after a lung busting run up the pitch to smash the ball in the goal. He practically ended up with the fans in the Town End that day, screaming with joy at the goal which secured the comprehensive win.

Who can forget his numerous crunching tackles as well? Whether they were on Bradley Dack or Joe Allen. Whoever it may be, Pearson was never afraid to get stuck into a challenge. He was always a leader on the pitch with his enthusiasm infectious. He loved a win, and there are countless pictures of Ben enjoying critical moments in games.

The 26-year-old is arguably the best central midfielder we have seen since the days of Sean Gregan. Preston were massively worse off without him when he was injured or suspended (which was quite often). His urgency and passion was so important for the team. If they had managed to reach the promised land with him, I believe he would have thrived in the Premier League. He definitely deserves a shot at it soon. If players like Kalvin Phillips can get into the England squad then I don’t see why Pearson can’t be considered at some point.

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In his first interview with Bournemouth, the former Manchester United midfielder was asked the usual questions, and he came up with the usual answers. Obviously he sees this as a step forward in his career, so he is going to say the squad is better, and the facilities are better etc. Those are standard answers, he’s not going to say the opposite. So I don’t think any North End fans should be too disgruntled at that. I have no doubt whatsoever that he would look back at his time at Preston with fond memories and would be thankful of the support he received.

Hopefully, Ryan Ledson is fit for the game on Saturday because it will be fascinating to see those two go head-to-head. Without Ledson, Pearson will comfortably control the game in midfield.

There was a stage in recent years where you could have argued that, had Ben stayed at Manchester United, then he would have been able to get into their team – certainly when the likes of Fred and Nemanja Matic were struggling, and I’d probably consider him to have a better all-round game than Scott McTominay. Pearson could definitely hold his own in the Premier League, and personally, I presumed he would join a mid-table side at least in that league when he left Preston.

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Little did we know on the 22nd February 2020, that that would be the last time we were able to see Ben Pearson at Deepdale. It was a 2-1 win over Hull City, and optimism was high for the end of the season. It would have been great to give him a proper send off. How times have changed. By the time we do return to Deepdale it’s going to be a completely different team.

A team without Pearson running the length of the pitch to win the ball back. A team without that bite in midfield who would never have a below par game. A team without a player who could by himself wind up the whole opposition, their fans and their manager in a matter of minutes.

I’ll miss the rugged midfielder sprinting across the turf to dive into a challenge to chants of ‘Pearo, Pearo, Pearo’ across Deepdale. I wish him well though, just not when he plays against us. He does deserve to play at a higher level, and the Premier League won’t know what’s hit it if and when he arrives there.

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