Preston have made some smart moves in recent years, bringing in lower league players who have gone on to become Championship stars.
Jordan Hugill was brought in from Port Vale before earning Preston a huge profit, whilst North End took advantage of Morecambe’s financial issues in 2016 to pounce for Tom Barkhuizen.
North End tried it again in January 2018, signing Hartlepool United striker Connor Simpson in a bargain move. The non-league side needed the cash, and Preston saw some potential in the giant forward.
Standing at 6ft 5in tall, Simpson was a promising target man. He’d only scored once in seven non-league games, but he had attracted major interest. TEAMtalk claimed that Celtic, Everton, Liverpool, Newcastle United and West Ham United all made approaches to sign Simpson, but North End won the race.
Preston brought him, to some excitement given the links to other clubs, and handed him a Championship debut as a substitute at Aston Villa in February 2018. Remarkably, that remains Simpson’s only Preston appearance.
Simpson has been out on loan four times now, joining Lancaster City, Hyde United, Carlisle United and now Accrington Stanley. Eight goals in 14 games at Hyde showed the potential Simpson has, but he’s managed just two League One appearances at Accrington.
Simpson’s lack of progress at Accrington is a concern. Making just two appearances for them suggests he’s some way of playing for Preston, and he could actually be on the move.
The striker is out of contract this summer, and earning a new deal at Deepdale seems a little unlikely now. Simpson just hasn’t kicked on as Preston had hoped, and leaving on a free transfer – just over two years since Preston allegedly beat some huge clubs to his signature – seems like the best move for all parties, allowing Simpson to go and settle down, playing first-team football elsewhere.