The patience Alex Neil asked for is being chipped away at now; North End need to get moving in the transfer market.
So far, we’ve seen just signings arrive at Deepdale. Patrick Bauer came on a free transfer last month, and David Nugent returned last week. That’s all Neil has been able to do. You even have to wonder whether Nugent was really his signing.
Many other Championship clubs have been quiet so far, but there are now just over two weeks of the transfer window to go. That’s even more pressing than this time last year, because there will be no loan market for Championship clubs after August 8th.
Preston need to do their business now, with Neil telling the LEP that it’s clear we need strengthening after Saturday’s defeat to Southampton. Was that something of a rallying cry to Trevor Hemmings and co to release some funds? Two free transfers in and the best attacking player – Callum Robinson – sold means we look to have gone backwards since May.
There’s not much time left for North End to spend that Robinson money, but here’s what’s needed.
A goalkeeping solution
Connor Ripley appears to have become the first-choice goalkeeper in pre-season, but his mistake for Southampton’s first goal on Saturday sums up the situation. Neither Ripley nor Declan Rudd appear to have convinced Neil, hence the move for Arijanet Muric earlier this summer. We missed out on that one, but that shouldn’t be the end of a pursuit for a new goalkeeper. Whether it’s a loan or a purchase, North End can’t keep taking these punts and hoping one pays off. Ripley was another, and just six months on, already seems like he isn’t the answer. Without a commanding goalkeeper, top six hopes will fade quickly.
A replacement for Robinson
No, Josh Ginnelly isn’t the Robinson heir. Not yet, at least. Yes, he has a little promise, but North End have lost an outstanding player in Robinson; a creator, a dribbler, a goal threat. People will point to players being able to play on the left, but that doesn’t make them Robinson replacements. Landing a true replacement is vital, and it now seems unlikely that Preston will splash out for a Jamal Lowe type. Ashley Hunter is a popular name, and whilst some may want experience, investing cash in young players – but ones who can make an instant impact, like Brad Potts – should be the priority.
Nugent may be back, but North End still look light up top. Jayden Stockley has endured a strange pre-season, Seani Maguire appears to be in better form than the end of last season but can’t be relied upon injury-wise, and Louis Moult’s days appear numbers. An all-round centre forward would be ideal, but the likes of Jordan Hugill and Kieffer Moore appear to be out of range. Finding another striker on a budget won’t be easy, and it would honestly be a surprise if one arrived now.
Without these signings, North End will stand little chance of a top six finish. Time is running out, and with plenty of work to do, Preston need to finally show a little intent this summer – or face questions over just where the Robinson money has gone.