We’re more than 18 months on from Tom Bayliss joining Preston in a £1.2million move from Coventry City.
Remarkably, he still has just one Championship start to his name and doesn’t exactly look close to making another one any time soon.
Having been one of the most exciting young midfielders in the EFL, the 21-year-old is danger of falling by the wayside at Preston – something none of us want to happen.
Alex Neil has never really seem convinced, and if a new manager comes in this summer, then one of the priorities must be to get the best out of Bayliss.
With his match action at a standstill, we spoke to Coventry City fan Stuart Court about Bayliss, gaining some insight into what Sky Blues supporters think of Bayliss and his bizarre situation at Deepdale…
Tom Bayliss was linked with a number of clubs before eventually signing for Preston in 2019. At the time, did Coventry fans think this was an ideal move in terms of playing time?
Some did, some didn’t because of Preston’s perceived stature. But for me it made more sense than some of the other ones he was linked to; it felt like a sweet spot for him to contribute to a team in that mid/upper Championship tier when our hope was a play-off push in the league below. It made a lot of sense as that next ‘step’ for him.
More than 18 months on, Bayliss still only has one Championship start to his name. How do Coventry fans feel about his situation?
Frustrated a bit, as I’m sure you see from me! Especially when Preston lose Ben Pearson, Paul Gallagher seems to be bit-part at best, his ability would be perfect to build around, with Ben Whiteman next to him. But clearly Neil hasn’t seen it yet, for whatever reason. He was a lot of fun to watch for the 2 years he was in our senior squad mix, so not seeing him even on match day squad bits is a bit off, so long into his time at Preston.
If Bayliss was to become available this summer, would Coventry fans want to see him return?
Yes. I’ve said to a few people that how he plays, picking the ball up, carrying it forward through the phases and having the ability to pick a pass or manufacture space for a shot, he’d be ideal alongside Gus Hamer and supporting Callum O’Hare. It’s exactly what we’re lacking- another talent to move the ball forward with some ease. But I don’t see it happening. I would like it to, but I think Robins/recruitment has possibly moved on from him… but I’m usually wrong!
We’ve yet to really see much of Bayliss and don’t even know his best position; where do you think he flourished most for Coventry?
He played on the wings as a inverted winger type in the League Two year. It was a weird make-up of a midfield with 2 deep midfielders in Michael Doyle and Liam Kelly with Bayliss and Jordan Shipley on the wings, but with no clear fit as a winger. It worked though.
Honestly, he was so fun to watch. He didn’t shy away from the ball, he scored 65 seconds into his debut. He won a few games on his own (Wycombe away in -10 temperature stands out). I think that immediate impact was him at his best, he faded a little in the League 1 year as the team never seemed settled when Doyle was moved on and Bayliss moved alongside Kelly in a deeper role. He was good, he just felt more penned in and then with Hiwula and Bright Enobakhare in front of him, they did the ball carrying.
Alex Neil has seemingly hinted at some issues at Preston – suggesting that things only really clicked for him in terms of what Preston demand from him last season – was this kind of thing ever talked about at Coventry?
Not ones made public; Bayliss came out of pretty much nowhere. We’ve had young players in the past who have built up ‘name recognition’ in the youth ranks- most prominently obviously is James Maddison. But, his talent and impact in that League Two year was so so immediate it kind of clouded anything, then he was gone 17 months later.
Do you still think Bayliss can be a success at Preston, or would you rather see him move on and have a fresh start?
I hope so. Preston seem like a team in the middle of a transition so he could get lost in that shuffle, if it happens. A move could be good for him, but Preston’s make-up from afar seems set up for him to have an impact. He’s one of the best players I’ve seen come through in our dive and then rise in the EFL, he looked like someone who was destined for top tier. How these past 18 months have effected that, is a wait and see thing. But yeah, I hope in 21/22 he gets his chance and finds his way back on that track to what it looked like he was on in 18/19.