Preston have a stocked midfield right now, but that situation may change this summer.
Ben Pearson, Paul Gallagher, Alan Browne, Daniel Johnson, Brad Potts, Ryan Ledson and Tom Bayliss make up a rather impressive set of midfielders, with Josh Harrop able to play as a number 10 too.
However, Pearson, Browne, Johnson, Ledson and Harrop all have just a year left on their deals. There’s a real chance they could move on, whilst Gallagher’s contract ends later this summer.
If Preston do lose a couple of midfielders, replacements may be needed. With money tight due to the global pandemic, North End may be tempted to look to the free agent market – and three options in League One look appealing…
24-year-old Camps has spent his entire career with Rochdale, but has now chosen to leave. A Northern Ireland youth international, Camps may now be ready to make the step up to the Premier League.
His raw numbers in League One this past season were impressive. In all competitions, Camps notched eight goals and eight assists. That’s a strong record for a midfielder, and he played in a host of different roles.
Camps has played as a holding midfielder, box-to-box midfielder, attacking midfielder, and even filled in out wide when asked. That kind of versatility is why Alan Browne has been a favourite of Alex Neil in recent years, and Camps could fit the bill as a potential successor.
Camps has shown his ability to break into the box late and find the net, whilst he isn’t afraid to shoot from range. He has displayed deft touches and imaginative play around the area, which is something North End lack at times.
He may only make sense as a target if Browne leaves, given their ability to arrive late into the box and their versatility, but he is an interesting option for free.
A little different to what North End currently have, Laurent stands at almost 6ft 2in tall. He’s an impressive box-to-box player, combining power and athleticism with quick feet and impressive ability on the ball.
Laurent showcased all of this in the FA Cup, starring in Shrewsbury Town’s clash with Liverpool in January. Against real competition, Laurent stood tall and made a real name for himself.
Capable of playing box-to-box or as a number 10 breaking forward – in the manner North End have used Browne – and is already attracting interest from Stoke City and Reading after four goals and five assists this season.
Laurent has been something of a nomad to date; he’s been with Wycombe Wanderers, Queens Park Rangers, Brentford, Hartlepool United, Wigan Athletic and now Shrewsbury, seemingly moving up and down the leagues without fulfilling his potential.
He is now doing that with Shrewsbury, and if North End want a tall, rangy midfielder who can get forward and contribute in the final third, Laurent could be their man for nothing.
Since joining Burton Albion in 2018, Fraser has excelled. The Scot racked up a superb nine goals and 14 assists this season, and has impressed in terms of expected goals and expected assists, as noted by Blades Analytic.
Fraser has played throughout midfield at Burton, even operating out wide and as a left back – again, versatility that should be attractive to North End.
Neil and recruitment chief Joe Savage may be aware of Fraser from his time in Scotland at Dundee United, and he has made himself difficult to ignore during his time with the Brewers.
He is a superb set piece taker, he has shown that he can ghost into pockets of space in and around the box, and he would provide North End with another left-footed player – something we lack.
Fraser is the most likely of the three to end up in the Championship having posted outstanding attacking and creative numbers in League One, and if Preston do go seeking another playmaker, he should be an option.
These players are all in their mid-20’s, which seems to fit into North End’s recent transfer model. My thoughts on this policy is that signing too many players at this age lumps Preston with players who either don’t improve the first-team squad and don’t have future resale value either.
These three are some of the most talented and creative players in League One though, and with money understandably tight this summer, they will be appealing options.