There have been many, many cases of unfulfilled potential in football. No matter who you support, your club has that player.
That player who could have been great, could have lived up to the dreams fans once had but just fell short.
Preston fans have many players who fit that kind of description, but right now, it’s Josh Harrop.
There was a real buzz back in 2017 when Harrop arrived from Manchester United, and it wasn’t just because he was swapping Old Trafford for Deepdale.
Harrop had started for United on the final day of the 2016-17 season. Given a chance by Jose Mourinho, Harrop took it; he scored in a 2-0 victory over Crystal Palace.
So what next for Harrop? Continue to emerge in the United first team like Marcus Rashford? Leave for France to join a major European club like Lyon, as was rumoured?
No, Harrop chose the same path as Jon Macken, David Healy and Ben Pearson before him, even David Beckham and Danny Welbeck. Harrop’s choice was Preston, despite the potential for a new deal at United.
The expectation was that Harrop would take Preston by storm. Signed for £600,000, Harrop had the stage to prove why Mourinho backed him.
Fast forward almost five years and we’re still waiting for Harrop’s rise.
It didn’t quite happen under Alex Neil, despite stunning yet fleeting glimmers against the likes of Blackburn Rovers and Charlton Athletic.
You have to factor in the major knee injury Harrop suffered in 2018. That set him back some way, though we did see him thrive in the first half of the 2018-19 season.
A loan spell with Ipswich Town didn’t help, and Harrop wasn’t even registered for league action under Frankie McAvoy.
From star capture to forgotten man, Harrop would have been forgiven for thinking he made the wrong choice back in 2017.
Hope springs eternal though, and Harrop has one final chance at Preston. If Harrop is drinking in the last chance saloon, then his glass is almost empty.
New boss Ryan Lowe has come in and made it clear that he wants to play an attractive brand of attacking football. Music to Harrop’s ears, no doubt.
On Sunday, Harrop was named on the bench against Cardiff City. Lowe brought Harrop on in the second half in an attempt to win this FA Cup tie; sadly, North End lost 2-1.
Harrop didn’t set the world alight and we can’t pretend he did. There were again glimmers of hope though, with one beautiful cross in extra time going completely unanswered by his Preston teammates.
If somebody gambles on that cross and scores, we’re talking about Harrop showcasing his creative talents.
Instead, we’re again wondering whether Harrop will make the grade at Preston.
Lowe has though praised Harrop. Speaking to Lancs Live, Lowe admitted he saw ‘fantastic’ moments from Harrop in his first viewing of him.
Lowe even added that he told Harrop’s agent that the playmaker is firmly in his plans, possessing an ‘abundance of talent’.
If Harrop needed one last indication that he can make it at Preston, this is it. This is the time, this is the chance.
Daniel Johnson is shining in the ‘mezzala’ role under Lowe, and you can see why Lowe may fancy Harrop there too.
Hovering in half-spaces, drifting wide, picking up the ball in the final third with an emphasis to create… that sounds like Harrop’s kind of gig.
Preston don’t have many players who can play that same role like Johnson. Izzy Brown could, but who knows if we’ll see him in a North End shirt again.
Going out to recruit somebody to fill that exact role yet sit behind Johnson is far from ideal. In a perfect world, Harrop now kicks on and competes with Johnson for that position in Lowe’s 3-5-2 system.
That’s still a big ask, but the opportunity is there. Harrop now needs to seize it, or forever be remembered at Preston as a player with so much talent who just didn’t make it.