On Monday, Scottish football was ended for the season as the Scottish Premiership season was finally settled.
Celtic have won their ninth league title in a row, with the Scottish FA deciding to end the season early amid the ongoing global pandemic.
Whilst Celtic can enjoy their title, it’s heartbreak for Hearts. As they sit bottom of the Scottish Premiership table, they have now been relegated to the second tier.
Owner Ann Budge is proposing legal action or a league restructure as Hearts fight to salvage their top-flight status. As things stand though, Hearts will be playing in the second tier when football resumes in Scotland.
Recent reports from the Daily Record have suggested that Hearts are in financial trouble – and that won’t be helped by relegation. First-team players may be offloaded this summer to raise funds and trim the wage bill.
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Could Preston get involved? Peter Ridsdale has shown that he is prepared to swoop in and pluck players from financially-struggling sides. Tom Barkhuizen and Connor Simpson were signed from Morecambe and Hartlepool United under similar circumstances.
Ridsdale is no doubt aware of the situation at Tynecastle. North End often have to be clever in the transfer market, and there may be the potential to land the odd bargain if Hearts are struggling.
Possibly the most appealing player would be Sean Clare. The former Sheffield Wednesday midfielder had a tricky start to life with Hearts, but has turned things around under Daniel Stendel.
Big and athletic at 6ft 3in tall, Clare has played out wide, as a number 10 or even as a right back, offering similar versatility to Alan Browne. With Browne out of contract in 2021 and Clare just 23, a cheap move could make some sense.
Striker Uche Ikpeazu is big and strong, a real battering ram of a forward. He may not be particularly gifted technically, but he could be a real pest in a Jordan Hugill-type role.
The 25-year-old has only bagged 10 goals in 55 games for Hearts, so he wouldn’t really be the clear first-choice North End need. If he was brought in as depth, it would make some sense.
Centre back John Souttar has the quality to be a top Championship defender, but injuries have crippled him of late. With question marks over the future of Ben Davies, Souttar could fit as a ball-playing defender at Deepdale – if his injury hell is behind him.
Midfielder Andy Irving has some potential, but Preston don’t necessarily need another box-to-box player unless Browne leaves. It’s hard to imagine many more players being on North End’s radar; after all, they were bottom of the Scottish Premiership for a reason.
Yet given Ridsdale history of plucking bargain signings from struggling sides, it maybe wouldn’t be a surprise to see Preston look at the Hearts situation this summer.