With as little as an hour of the transfer window to go, Preston fans were sharpening their pitchforks as new signings seemed like a distant hope.
The despondent feeling around North End fans throughout the day had been gradually mounting, all kicked off by suggestions early in the day that Preston weren’t expected to be busy.
We all knew Preston needed signings. There was a real fear that two league wins, beating Peterborough United and Swansea City, had convinced North End that everything was fine.
Stories began to emerge that Preston had not four cash bids for attacking players, but none of those deals happened.
One was thought to be the Southampton striker Michael Obafemi, who picked a £2million move to Swansea City instead.
We’re getting pretty sick of Swansea now. You hear of bogey teams on the pitch, but bogey teams off it? That’s a little less common.
The Swans have beaten Preston to a host of signings in recent times, including Jake Bidwell, Rhian Brewster, Jamal Lowe, Kyle Joseph and now Obafemi.
Obafemi wasn’t the only one to slip through Preston’s net ahead of the transfer deadline. Brighton and Hove Albion striker Andi Zeqiri went to Augsburg, and when North End then asked for another Brighton striker, new signing Abdallah Sima, they learned he was off to Stoke City instead.
Preston tried for Liverpool winger Sheyi Ojo, but he joined Millwall. As the deadline inched ever closer, fans had given up on new recruits and turned the ire towards the club’s hierarchy.
Tweets were absolutely rampant calling for owner Trevor Hemmings and director Peter Ridsdale to go. Everybody can be open to criticism, but some of the personal attacks did go too far as the deadline drew closer.
In the end, Preston did pull off not one but two signings – and it’s hard to feel anything but real positivity about both of them.
What we have said for some time now is that Preston have fallen into a pattern of signing players who didn’t improve the starting XI, and didn’t have resale value for the future either. Targeting these players, like Jayden Stockley, Connor Ripley, Joe Rafferty, Josh Ginnelly and Graham Burke, have played a factor in Preston running out of saleable assets.
In deadline day signing Ali McCann, Preston may have a star on their hands. The Northern Ireland international was a key part of St Johnstone’s double winning side last season and was considered as one of the Scottish Premiership’s top players outside of the Old Firm.
An all-round midfielder who appears to have a bit of everything, McCann has arrived for just £1.2million rising to around £2million. If all goes to plan, Preston should be in a great position to land a considerable profit on him in two years or so.
The other addition was Josh Murphy, a winger from Cardiff City. Loaned out inside the final year of his Bluebirds contract, it seems clear that Murphy no longer has a future in South Wales.
Murphy’s relationship with Frankie McAvoy – the pair worked together at Norwich City – appears to have played a key role in the 26-year-old’s decision to make the move to Lancashire.
Murphy is a real departure from North End’s usual transfer strategy. This is a player who cost £11million three years ago, a player with almost 200 Championship appearances to his name, a player who played regularly in the Premier League for Cardiff.
Quick, able to play across the front line and able to go off either foot, Murphy may finally be the replacement for Callum Robinson that we’ve been crying out for since 2019.
Add in that Murphy could sign permanently for free next summer, and this seems like a deal to be excited about.
In these two deadline day signings, Preston did what we’ve been calling for; investing in one potential star of the future that could bring in millions down the line, and bringing in a player who is Championship-ready.
Those who engineered these two deals deserve praise – especially after a deadline day that was threatening to turn ugly.
So what of Preston’s other summer business?
It was a bit… flat, in truth.
Bringing back goalkeeper Daniel Iversen and defender Sepp van den Berg for second loan spells was great. The duo were superb after joining on loan in January, and have slotted straight back into the side this season.
A permanent deal for fellow loanee Liam Lindsay was also struck. Lindsay was decent on loan from Stoke City last term, and ended last season with the winning goal at Nottingham Forest.
The problem with this move was that Preston saw Lindsay as an attractive option because he was left-footed, perceivably offering balance after the sale of Ben Davies.
Lindsay has many attributes, but pace and agility aren’t really on the list. You subsequently can’t really play him on the left side of a back three because he doesn’t have the athletic ability to dragged wide and be left one v one with attackers.
Lindsay’s best role in a three is in the middle, and he should offer decent cover for Patrick Bauer in that role – but signing him permanently hasn’t solved the left-sided issue, which is why left back Andrew Hughes will likely spend the season there.
Other than those three coming back, Preston added three other new faces, and that’s where things got a little frustrating.
Preston took a punt on injury-prone playmaker Izzy Brown on a free transfer following his Chelsea exit. Sadly, he managed just one appearance in pre-season before going down with an Achilles tear, and will miss most of the season.
That’s just unfortunate, as was new right back Matthew Olosunde suffering an injury in pre-season. We’ve only seen 45 minutes of him so far.
Olosunde’s profile is at least on the right lines. He’s only 23, he has more than 60 Football League appearances under his belt, he’s quick and has potential for growth. On a free transfer, this move made perfect sense and we can’t wait to see him in action.
Playmaker Jamie Thomas has also joined after a real Roy of the Rovers rise.
Thomas was a hot prospect at Bolton Wanderers and Burnley, but dropped out of the game due to mental health issues. The Welsh ace had to come back up through non-league, playing for AFC Blackpool and Squires Gate before joining Bamber Bridge this summer.
Thomas then scored two long-range goals against Preston in a pre-season friendly, leading to North End giving him a trial run against Accrington Stanley. Wouldn’t you know it, he went and scored.
After also showing promise against Wigan Athletic, Thomas was given a one-year contract in an absolute dream couple of weeks for him.
He’s yet to feature in the Championship, and there’s a real chance he doesn’t even make the Championship squad, but it’s still an incredible story and one of the feel-good narratives of the summer.
All this meant that, for the first month of the season, Preston were without a ‘new’ face from the final day of last season.
Three loanees returned, but the three ‘new’ signings were all missing for various reasons. It all felt a little flat, especially with defeats to Hull City, Reading and Huddersfield Town.
Preston simply couldn’t come out of this window without more new blood. In McCann and Murphy, Preston have got exactly what they needed.
The deals were done with mere seconds of the transfer window left, and those fine margins have turned an underwhelming summer window into a positive one.
There is still work to do down the line, and you will likely see more squad turnover in the next year due to contracts expiring, but North End pulled this out of the bag – and now need to keep moving forward this season.