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Preston post-match notebook: Time for leaders to step up but where are they?

Football fans went 500 days without attending a live game. Many Preston fans will be dreaming of a similar situation after the first three league games of this season.

North End lost their third straight game to Huddersfield Town on Tuesday night, who themselves look in serious trouble this season as well.

Who’s going to deliver the rallying cry?

John Welsh, Tom Clarke, Paul Gallagher, even Ben Pearson and Ben Davies. Players who wouldn’t settle for below par performances. Players who could lead and would speak out in a dressing room. All have gone. Alan Browne is now the club captain. He is a shadow of the player he was a couple of years ago.

Gone are the performances where he would break forward and attack, scoring many important goals for the club. He looks a little lost in the team now. Holder of the captain’s armband he has a hell of a job on his hands this season.

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He needs to lead from the front and currently the team is lacking any leadership and influence. He also needs the fans on his side. At the end of the game at Huddersfield, Preston fans understandably showed their dismay at a poor performance. Browne seemed to take exception to this.

No one likes to be on the end of it, but in this situation you have to take it on the chin. You’re the captain, you’re meant to lead by example. Hold your hands up, thank the support and admit it needs to be better. This isn’t the time to start disagreeing with them and chatting back.

Browne hasn’t excelled as captain but in all honesty who else is there?

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What does Whiteman add?

This may be a controversial one to many as I know he has his fans but I struggle to see what Ben Whiteman offers to this North End team. We spent a lot of money on him and I can’t help but think it could have been spent better elsewhere. We have an abundance of centre midfielders, and on Tuesday night Frankie McAvoy crammed four into the starting lineup with Ryan Ledson on the bench. He’s yet to find a winning formula.

Ben Whiteman took a couple of poor free kicks and it may not be down to him completely, but when he’s on the ball we rarely create a great attacking opportunity. Surely McAvoy has a plan to utilise him to his best? We’ve yet to see it. There’s a player in there but we need to see it sooner rather than later.

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A 19-year-old centre back was one of our main attacking threats

Sepp van den Berg gives his all every game. He’s a young lad being asked to play as a right wing back. With the formation McAvoy plays, a lot is asked of those wing backs. Sepp was up and down the right flank having to deal with lofted balls into his area. He was expected to bring them down and then create attacking chances from them. He then had to track back and defend when that doesn’t work out.

Him and Josh Earl put a good shift in, but way too much was asked of them. The formation leads to zero attacking threat. Especially when Brad Potts is played as a striker. We dominated possession in the second half but did nothing with it.

The substitutions of Emil Riis and Scott Sinclair came too late. Frankie didn’t seem to have a plan, and couldn’t even react in time to it.

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We haven’t played a top team yet

It would be a surprise if Hull City, Reading and especially Huddersfield Town finish in the top half this season. The Terriers were particularly poor. The game was there for the taking if we had any quality or attacking prowess. They will also struggle this season and will be thankful for the own goal.

It wasn’t a ‘must win’ game on Tuesday but one that Preston HC to go for. McAvoy set up not to lose rather than to win and still failed. The team lineup didn’t give anyone confidence. Josh Earl came out of nowhere to start and to be fair to him did well. To see Emil Riis and Scott Sinclair on the bench was a surprise. It almost seems like McAvoy is at the stage of trying any old thing out rather than sticking to a consistent team.

The formation isn’t working. It doesn’t suit any of the team. Time to change it Frankie. A defeat to Peterborough at home and it would be tough to recover from.

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Does Frankie even realise the problem?

“Sometimes you just need to take these things on the chin, keep doing the things you have improved on and your luck will turn.” Frankie McAvoy’s words after the match. He’s already at the stage of just relying on luck. There’s a lot more this side need.

Of course it’s been badly managed for a while now. Gone are the days when we could rely on Hugill, Robinson, Davies, Pearson and Fisher. There are realistically zero sellable assets at the club now. A lot of League One clubs wouldn’t even take half the players we have.

The club needs an upheaval. Unfortunately that only usually comes after a relegation. The team that Simon Grayson had in League One was much better than this. You could rely on players like Neil Kilkenny, Joe Garner, Tom Clarke and many others. Always put a shift in. Knew what it meant to represent Preston North End.

Many of these players are only just getting used to playing in front of the North End faithful. They quickly need to learn what this club means to us all. We follow home and away no matter what. The following on Tuesday night was very good considering the start to the season.

Play for that badge. Work your socks off. Respect the fans. Understand we expect a bare minimum which hasn’t yet been met this season. Alan Browne, time to step up. If you want to be the captain of this club, you have a big job to turn it around and there’s no time like the present.

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