According to the Lancashire Evening Post, Preston North End plan to hold talks with Ben Davies, Daniel Johnson, Ben Pearson and Alan Browne imminently.
The summer transfer window ended without any of the four players leaving, despite rumours surrounding their futures at Deepdale.
Johnson was the subject of a £1.5million bid from Rangers, which would have been paid in four payments; unsurprisingly, North End said no.
Bournemouth offered £3million for defender Davies, but that was some way short of Preston’s £10million asking price for the homegrown star, whilst Celtic are believed to be keen on signing Davies for free through a pre-contract agreement in January.
Pearson and Browne didn’t attract quite as much public interest, though the pair no doubt have their admirers in both the Championship and the Premier League.
All four players are out of contract at the end of the season, meaning they could walk away for absolutely nothing in 2021 – so what chance do Preston have of keeping them?
The biggest hope may come with Browne. He is a key part of Alex Neil’s side, really emerging from a squad player under Simon Grayson to a vital cog in the 4-2-3-1 system under Neil.
The Irishman’s goals have somewhat dried up compared to his first two seasons under Neil, and that may just slow down some interest. Browne has also indicated in the press that he would like to stay; that’s more vocal than the other three.
It’s frankly hard to imagine that Davies and Pearson will still be Preston players next season; they have both starred in the Championship, and are now ready for a step up. Particularly in Pearson’s case, we couldn’t really begrudge him a move to the Premier League because he truly deserves it after excelling at Deepdale for almost five years now.
So what of Johnson? This is one situation that could go either way. Rangers wanted him, but ended up signing Bongani Zungu on loan from Amiens instead, with a view to a permanent move next summer.
If the South African impresses, Rangers’ interest in Johnson could wane, and that’s what Preston will be hoping for in the quest to keep Johnson at Deepdale almost six years since signing him for just £50,000.
The one thing that may be on Trevor Hemmings’ mind should they all walk away is that Preston didn’t sink huge money into the quartet. Davies came through the youth ranks, and Browne, Johnson and Pearson cost around £360,000 in combined transfer fees.
It’s hardly any great solace to lose four top assets for nothing, but Hemmings may at least feel that North End have got their money’s worth out of them – but the hope will still be that Preston can somehow convince some or even all of them to stay.