The deadline day signing of Ali McCann in the summer caught many by surprise. The club had to pay a significant fee – around £1.2million – to St Johnstone, and they swooped in when Glasgow Rangers were thought to be keeping a close eye on him too.
The Northern Ireland international’s combative, box to box style of play is instantly infectious, and Preston fans have seen him roam around the pitch with endless energy reminiscent to that of Ben Pearson.
The centre of midfield is a very competitive area at Preston however, even when we are playing three players there. Alan Browne, Daniel Johnson and Ben Whiteman have been given the nod more often than not this season. On top of McCann there is an abundance of other players that can play there.
Brad Potts would probably favour that position if he was to choose. Whilst out on loan there is also Josh Harrop and Tom Bayliss. Young Lewis Leigh will be hoping to break into the team sooner rather than later, and of course there’s last year’s Player of the Season Ryan Ledson.
Ledson has been favoured as an alternative to the preferred three under Ryan Lowe so far. McCann has seen little action under the former Plymouth Argyle manager, although he did start his first game in charge; at home to Barnsley. However that starting role came at right wing-back, a position McCann clearly wasn’t familiar with.
McCann didn’t play a single minute in the next four league games after that, before coming off the bench for seven minutes in the away win against West Bromwich Albion.
A full second half against Bristol City followed before two 90 minute displays against Millwall and Hull City. He’s then found himself unused on the bench again after the return of Daniel Johnson from international duty with Jamaica.
It’s fair to say that DJ, Browne and Whiteman all looked a bit tired on Saturday against Reading and a shadow of themselves.
There’s some tough fixtures coming up and what we know we’ll get with Ledson and McCann is endless energy and they’ll also be up for any battle. They both look to make strong tackles and then play forward. McCann deserved more of a chance, and with a run in the side Lowe will quickly see and understand the qualities he brings to Preston.
It’s a hard one to juggle with the options in the middle of the park, but so far it seems McCann has been the odd one out too often. He needs a run in the side to pick up some form and show what he’s all about.
McCann has only started 11 games this season, and we need to get him some more under his belt to ensure his game continues to develop and he can become a star for us, that so many North of the border predicted he would. He excelled against Liverpool in the cup and also Bournemouth away in the league stands out as a classic Ali performance.
I don’t think Reading would have breezed through an Ali McCann midfield on Saturday as easily as they did. Lowe now faces a major dilemma on his hands.