Preston’s transfer record of £1.5million still stands from 2001. In recent years, it’s become a stick to beat North End with, and the reasoning is understandable.
When North End signed David Healy more than 18 years ago, it was a show of the club’s ambition; a sign that Preston would pay considerable money for the right player.
Few would have expected when that deal went through that the record would still stand in 2019. Deals for the likes of Darren Carter, Richard Chaplow and Bard Potts have come close, but haven’t quite cracked £1.5m.
North End fans understandably feel that, having not broken that record since the Healy deal, the ambition has dwindled. Just months after the Healy move, Preston were in the playoff final, fighting for a Premier League place.
Spending that money just months after promotion to the second tier was a show that Preston were willing to push the boat out. Yet even with big money brought in for Jordan Hugill and Greg Cunningham, there’s only been one signing of seven figures; the capture of Potts.
North End – at least as they claim – did try last summer though. With that Hugill money in the bank, Alex Neil wanted a big attacking signing. Sadly, it didn’t come off, and we’re somewhat back to square one in needing real investment now. If we’re being honest, the club record may need to be broken in order to considerably improve this team.
Back in September, Peter Ridsdale claimed that North End made two attempts to break the club’s transfer record. The first player mentioned was Adam Armstrong, as he chose a reunion with Tony Mowbray over joining Preston. The second was Barnsley striker Kieffer Moore, who Neil had picked out as the ideal replacement for Hugill.
PR: “We also had a bid accepted for another player, a striker, that would have broken our transfer record but overnight they doubled the asking price. We share the fans’ frustrations.” #pnefc
— Preston North End FC (@pnefc) September 17, 2018
Some cynics may claim that Preston didn’t do enough to sign either player, but let’s just accept the stories for now. Have Preston missed out on the duo? Would they have bolstered the side?
Local rivals Rovers paid £1.75million to sign him (The Chronicle). Mowbray had worked with him at Coventry and on loan at Blackburn in 2018, so a reunion wasn’t entirely surprising.
How did Armstrong fare last season? Featuring mostly as a left-sided winger, Armstrong notched just five goals and three assists in 44 Championship games. That’s not exactly a great return for an allegedly exciting attacker, and North End maybe won’t feel too gutted about missing out.
Yes, he’s still only 22 and has a bright future to come, but his statistical output wasn’t great. Had we shattered the club record for those numbers, fans would have most likely been disappointed.
Moore’s record at Barnsley before relegation wasn’t great, scoring four times in 20 games. However, he fit what Neil wanted perfectly. Standing at 6ft 5in tall, Moore is a dominant aerial presence, offers strong link-up play and is a willing runner in the channels with a decent turn of pace for his size.
After North End failed to land him, Moore enjoyed a great season. The target man hit a superb 19 goals in 35 games, helping fire Barnsley back to the Championship. Preston ended up signing Jayden Stockley in January, but if Neil was offered Moore now, he’d probably still take him.
Questions do still hang over his ability in the Championship, and we’ll have to see how that goes next season. Now on the fringes of the Wales setup, Moore is out of North End’s reach now, just as he was last summer – and he’s one that Neil will feel we really missed out on.
Hopefully, Neil will be backed with a club-record signing this summer – and after failing to land Armstrong or Moore, it may well be spent on an attacker if and when it does happen.