It’s always frustrating when players leave Preston North End and go on to impress elsewhere. Even more so, when they were barely given a chance at Deepdale in the first place.
Josh Ginnelly has gone on to establish himself as a key player for Heart of Midlothian in Scotland since leaving Preston, and on Thursday night starred in their Europa Conference League win over Rigas Futbola Skola (RFS) of Latvia.
Hearts are unable to progress any further in the competition after previous defeats to Fiorentina and Istanbul Başakşehir but a third-place finish was confirmed after their recent 2-1 victory.
Winger Ginnelly has been with the Edinburgh club for the last two years, after initially joining on loan from Preston, and then on a free transfer in the summer of 2021. He joined North End as a 21-year-old from Walsall but didn’t get much game time under Alex Neil.
He made five appearances from the bench in the last five games of the 18/19 season. At the time under Neil we had Lukas Nmecha, Callum Robinson, Tom Barkhuizen and Sean Maguire all capable of playing out wide, so it was tough competition for the former Altrincham player.
The next season he played in the first three rounds of the League Cup for Preston, including as a left-back at home to Manchester City. He only came off the bench once in the league before being loaned out to Bristol Rovers in League One.
After the delay of the pandemic, the following season saw him join Hearts in the Scottish Championship on loan. He got a decent run of games at first but then an achilles problem saw him require surgery.
Hearts had been impressed with him though and after the conclusion of that season, they signed him on a free transfer from Preston. He scored five goals in 31 Scottish Premier League appearances and also played in their Scottish FA Cup Final defeat to Glasgow Rangers.
He’s made an impact in Europe with them as well with BBC Sport giving him the man of the match award on Thursday night. Describing his performance they said “The winger gets fans off their feet. Set up the first goal, almost scored one of his own and was always looking to make things happen.”
It’s tough for any young player coming through the ranks or even arriving from another club to be given enough opportunities at Preston. Right now we don’t have anyone close to getting the fans off their feet. Managers are under pressure to deliver so would rather go with trusted, experienced players than going for a raw option which is more of a risk. If Ginnelly had been giving a chance a couple of years ago who knows the player he could have developed into at Deepdale?