It looks like the Championship season will return in June, after more than two months on the shelf.
The global pandemic took a hold of the UK in March, causing the football season to be suspended. Preston’s last game was on the 7th of March, losing 3-1 at home to Queens Park Rangers.
When football returns, North End will be hoping to find some form. Four defeats in five before the pandemic left Preston clinging onto the final Championship playoff spot, so a crucial period faces Alex Neil and co.
There are many logistical issues facing the Football League as they attempt to get games underway. One of them surrounds the matter of player’s contracts, given that many players were set to become free agents on July 1st.
A number of such players are at North End. Michael Crowe and Connor Simpson will likely go, but it remains to be seen what happens with Paul Gallagher and Tom Clarke.
The veteran duo are out of contract this summer. Now, Alex Neil has told Sky Sports that he expects both players to sign short-term extensions to see out the season, whilst talks have been held with both about their longer-term futures.
“I would imagine our lads will extend their contracts to the remainder of the season and then when or if we start playing again there will probably be discussions at that point to see whether it’s going to be extended or not beyond that,” said Neil. “We have spoke to Paul and Tom in particular because they’re two senior players and they’ve been great servants to Preston, so discussions with them have been ongoing. Albeit it’s frustrating circumstances that the club finds itself in at the moment, but if we do hopefully get back playing then they’ll be other discussions to be had,” he added.
Most would love to see Gallagher stay put. He may be turning 36 this summer, but Gallagher’s influence hasn’t dwindled. He’s still a key player on the pitch, even if his minutes have to be managed a little more now, whilst he provides invaluable experience too.
Clarke is a little trickier. He’s now 32, and does appear to have slowed a little. He has looked uncomfortable at right back this season, and Neil has other option in the centre in Ben Davies, Patrick Bauer, Paul Huntington and Jordan Storey.
The former Huddersfield man is a valuable leader and dressing room presence, and those characters are integral to Preston. It won’t be an easy decision on Clarke, whose seven-year stay at Deepdale is at risk of ending.