Daniel Johnson was Preston’s Player of the Year in the 2019-20 season, turning in a superb campaign after many had been pushing for his exit.
Wigan Athletic wanted to sign Johnson in the summer of 2019, but he ended up staying at Deepdale and turning in a fine season.
With 12 goals and eight assists, Johnson had found consistency again. He was contributing in the final third, scoring and creating chances as he found top form.
That ultimately resulted in interest again. Rangers wanted to sign Johnson, even making a bid that North End rejected. Yet with Preston struggling to extend his contract, it looked like he would be leaving, possibly for Ibrox.
His performances seemed to suffer as a result of the speculation. Johnson wasn’t quite as sharp as he once was, and even signing a new contract in January didn’t fully solve the issue.
After playing in 64 minutes of Frankie McAvoy’s first game in charge, Johnson was shut down for the season. A calf injury had brought an end to his campaign as McAvoy chose not to risk him.
Getting the best out of Johnson has to be a top priority for McAvoy. We’re not far removed from Johnson registering 20 goal contributions in a single season, and that’s what Preston need again.
In McAvoy’s 3-4-1-2 system, you would assume Johnson is viewed as a number 10. He could play in a two, dictating play from deep, but that hasn’t really been his best role over the years.
McAvoy will have to find exactly where Johnson fits into his side, as he is too big of a talent to be sat out on a regular basis.
The transfer speculation has stopped, the new contract has long been signed, the injury will have hopefully cleared up by pre-season.
This is a chance to forget a difficult campaign last season and kick on again. As he approaches 29, Johnson needs to find that top form once again, and give North End a real threat in McAvoy’s first full season in charge.