We’re realistic here; the likelihood is that Callum Robinson will be leaving Preston this summer.
The 24-year-old is out of contract in year, and is attracting major interest. The LEP noted last week that a second bid from a Premier League club has been rejected, with North End holding out for their asking price.
With 12 goals and three assists last season, Robinson is deservedly in the spotlight. As much as we’d love him to stay, Robinson is now ready for Premier League football, and as long as North End get a fair price with a year left on his deal, he’ll likely go.
North End should already have a list of names in the mix to replace Robinson. Preston can’t afford to wait until Robinson goes to get their targets lined up – now is the time to identify potential signings.
With that in mind, here are a number of options for North End to consider, given that Robinson is likely to be a club-record sale…
Jamal Lowe, Portsmouth
This is the most exciting one, to us anyway. Lowe is valued at £3million by Portsmouth according to London News Online; double North End’s record. That would mean a change of approach by Trevor Hemmings, but money must be made available to find a proper replacement for Robinson. Lowe ticks the boxes; he has plenty of Football League experience at 24, he’s quick, versatile across the front line and full of potential. With 17 goals and nine assists last season, Lowe has proven what a threat he is. Yes, other Championship clubs are keen, but he’s an ideal replacement for Robinson, and Preston should have him on the list.
Ronan Curtis, Portsmouth
Another Pompey player who fits the bill is Curtis. With 12 goals and 13 assists last season, the 23-year-old enjoyed a superb first season in League One. An Irish international teammate of Robinson, Curtis is quick and skilful but big and strong too. North End will have surely seen him playing in Ireland with Derry City, and now would be a great time to land him. Portsmouth will want a huge profit on the £100,000 they paid a year ago, but Preston would hopefully have funds to launch a move.
Siriki Dembele, Peterborough United
Another League One option is Siriki Dembele. The Scot, 22, is small but rapid, and had decent end product last season with seven goals and seven assists. Formerly of Grimsby Town, Dembele is an exciting young winger who looks to have his best years ahead of him. A problem here would be Darragh MacAnthony. He often charges high prices for players unless they’re in the final year of their contract, and Dembele is lock down until 2021. He’s not quite as rounded as Lowe or Curtis, but an exciting, direct winger.
Marcus Browne, West Ham United
West Ham may not sell Browne just yet, but North End need to get back to trying to land young players unable to get into Premier League sides. Browne fits that bill, with a number of players ahead of him at West Ham. Browne turns 22 later this year, and now is the time to settle down and play. He impressed on loan at Oxford, notching nine goals and five assists, and is now in limbo at West Ham. Capable of playing as a 10 or on either flank, Browne has a similarly smooth style to Robinson. He’s quick rather than rapid, but he’s incredibly smart and skilful. If West Ham can be convinced to sell, Browne would be ideal.
Ashley Hunter, Fleetwood Town
There’s something about Fleetwood which makes people think it’s unfashionable to sign their players, but Hunter is a talent. The 23-year-old has risen from non-league football to star with the Cod Army, and his record is hard to ignore. Nine goals and 12 assists last season saw Hunter excel in League One, and he looks ready for the step up. He has great delivery from crosses and even set pieces, whilst he’s played all across the front line and even at wing back. Hunter could be a fine addition from our neighbours, even if he doesn’t come with as much buzz as other League One wide men. We also believe North End have considered Hunter, so he’s a name to keep an eye on.
Mallik Wilks, Leeds United
Many will remember how Wilks tore us apart for Doncaster in January. The 20-year-old terrorised North End with his pace in the FA Cup, and must have put himself on the radar in the process. His haul of 21 goals and 12 assists last season was frankly brilliant, and he now returns to Leeds with his future unclear. Marcelo Bielsa is trying to sign three wingers according to the Yorkshire Evening Post. That would leave Wilks on the fringes, and Preston would be wise to try and offer him an alternative away from Elland Road.
CJ Hamilton, Mansfield Town
North End made a move for Hamilton in January, but Mansfield stood firm. There’s no doubting that the 24-year-old is still raw for his age. He’s got blistering pace which could terrify any defender, but he needs to just round out his game and become more consistent. Last season, Hamilton hit 14 goals and nine assists, whilst featuring in a range of positions. His ability to play at left wing back, left wing and striker is hugely appealing, and he should be playing higher than League Two now. North End need speed, and Hamilton fits the bill – even if he may be frustrating at times.
Who would you like to see Preston sign if Callum Robinson leaves?