Preston North End boss Ryan Lowe has hinted at exploring the free agent market this summer in his quest for new signings.
It feels pretty clear at this point that PNE will be trying to avoid paying fees for new signings.
The club’s budget isn’t exactly huge but fans have come to expect loans and free agents as the only new faces.
Lowe has told Lancs Live that PNE are looking at the free agent market and already have eyes on a few players.
PNE did similar last summer by snapping up Dai Cornell, Robbie Brady and Ben Woodburn on free transfers.
With that in mind, here are a few names who could be of interest to PNE as their contracts run down…
Left wing back will be a key area for PNE this summer. Brady is out of contract and Alvaro Fernandez will be returning to Manchester United. Fortuna Sittard ace Cox is a former Brighton and Hove Albion talent who has been really impressing in the Netherlands. The 25-year-old has played at left back or left wing back all season and he has chipped in going forward for Fortuna, bagging 10 goals and eight assists in 109 games. Maybe a return to England will appeal to Cox, with PNE able to offer regular playing time.
Exeter talent Key has been a truly versatile prospect in recent times. The 23-year-old has played as a right wing back, right-sided centre back and even as a midfielder. PNE have been crying out for a right wing back and even if Key doesn’t stickle North End’s fancy in that role, he could offer quality in build-up play as the right centre back. Key has attracted plenty of Championship interest and is the right kind of age PNE should be targeting.
Former Manchester United talent Poole has been a standout performer for Lincoln City this season and, just like Key, has played as right wing back and as a right-sided centre back. With Bambo Diaby impressing in the heart of defence and Patrick Bauer’s future unclear, maybe PNE will go for a right-sided defender to challenge Jordan Storey. Welshman Poole offers versatility at the back and seems ready for the Championship step-up.
Another versatile performer, Fosu has played as a wing back, midfielder or in the final third – all areas that PNE may look to strengthen this summer. The 27-year-old is out of contract at Brentford this summer and looks set to leave having been farmed out on loan to Rotherham United, where has impressed of late. Fosu has racked up over 200 EFL appearances in his career and would be a ‘ready-to-go’ player that Lowe likes.
Fosu’s Rotherham teammate Ogbene also makes the list and would be something of a dream signing. The Irish international is a dangerous attacker with serious speed, and has bagged seven goals in 27 games this season. Ogbene is the type of player who can bring a real spark to the PNE attack, but many Championship clubs will be keen.
A versatile attacker who has played up top, wide and behind the striker, Knibbs doesn’t look all that exciting with five goals and three assists this season. Formerly of Aston Villa, the 23-year-old is an athletic threat who can carry the ball and open up defences. Knibbs was the subject of January interest from Plymouth Argyle as well as Huddersfield Town and may be somebody to take a calculated punt on.
Lowe has previously indicated that he wouldn’t try to raid former club Plymouth, but what if an Argyle player became a free agent? That’s the situation on the horizon with Ryan Hardie, a player linked to PNE after Lowe’s arrival. The Scot has bagged 17 goals in all competitions this season and could add competition to Lowe’s attack, which will lose three loanees this summer in Tom Cannon, Liam Delap and Troy Parrott.
It’s a similar story with Niall Ennis. The 23-year-old Plymouth attacker has notched nine goals and four assists this season and is a player Lowe described as a ‘special talent’ during their time together at Argyle. Ennis also has decent pace and movement in behind – attributes that the PNE attack lacks at times.