Preston have been busy in the transfer market this month, adding four new faces to Alex Neil’s squad.
After Saturday’s 2-0 defeat at Bristol City, it’s hard to imagine the recruitment stops there. More new faces are needed at Deepdale, and this is very much becoming a rebuilding job for a team in transition.
Stars like Ben Pearson and Ben Davies are likely to go, whilst fringe players like Billy Bodin and Jayden Stockley could soon be moved on.
Losing recruitment chief Joe Savage was far from ideal ahead of such a huge job, and there are likely to many incomings and outgoings both this month and come the end of the season.
One of the factors that Preston may need to think about is leadership in this squad, as many of the dressing room leaders over recent years are moving on or their playing time is diminishing.
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John Welsh has long gone, whilst Tom Clarke left last summer. Paul Gallagher is approaching 37 and has only started five league games this season, whilst Paul Huntington seems more like depth at the back rather than a vital cog.
Those four were key in League One, and formed the core of the dressing room for many years, offering leadership and know-how on the pitch – vital for a team that often has to rely on a close-knit squad with great characters to make up for a lack of financial prowess.
With that leadership core gradually fading away, Preston need new leaders. It’s been clear at times this season that North End need some strong heads to deal with tricky times, and the recruitment does seem to point to Alex Neil wanting ‘captains’.
Ben Whiteman arrived from Doncaster having skippered the side for 18 months, emerging as a leader for Rovers before heading to Preston.
Preston look to be losing Pearson, and with Whiteman seen as Gallagher’s long-term heir, his role as Doncaster captain could be key as North End look to establish a new core of leaders.
What about at the back? Ben Davies has worn the captain’s armband at times, so losing him on a free transfer would deprive Preston of another emerging leader.
New reports from The Sun suggest that Neil wants to bring in Luton Town’s Sonny Bradley as a replacement for Davies, with his contract expiring this summer.
Guess what? Bradley is another captain. He has been Luton skipper in a side that also have to punch above their weight in the Championship, with his rise through the leagues proving vital to his character.
A deal for Bradley won’t be easy given his importance to Luton, but the interest does match up with adding more leaders to this squad; even loanee Jayson Molumby is Ireland’s Under-21 captain.
Adding three captains in one window would be great steps for Preston in this rebuilding phase, with veterans and future leaders needing to be replaced, and Bradley could be ideal for that kind of role at the age of 29.