PNE boss offers numbers clue

Paul Huntington

Paul Huntington

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Preston North End manager Simon Grayson admits that some of the vacant shirt numbers offer an obvious clue to the transfer business he intends doing.

The Lilywhites released their squad numbers this week, with numbers one, two, three and four yet to be claimed.

Most of the players have kept their numbers from last season.

Defender Paul Huntington was offered a change but chose to stick with the No.23 shirt which he wore in North End’s promotion campaign.

Grayson said: “It is no secret that the goalkeeper, right-back and left-back situations need resolving, so there are your numbers one, two and three.

“Four is still available, Paul Huntington could have had it but he wanted to keep his number from last season.

“We have a lot of players who have kept their number from last season because they are superstitious or just like the one they’ve got.

“I wouldn’t read too much into squad numbers, we will wait and see what happens.

“In theory, the No.4 shirt could end up being filled by anyone – a left-winger, a right-winger, a centre-forward, a substitute, who knows?”

Last season, the No.1 shirt was the property of Jamie Jones, with him starting the campaign as first-choice keeper before losing his place.

He is No.21 this time, taking that number from Thorsten Stuckmann who moved to Doncaster in the summer.

Two, three and four are up for grabs after the departures of Keith Keane, Scott Laird and Scott Wiseman.

Some of the younger players have switched numbers, with Alan Browne taking No.16 after being No.31.

Josh Brownhill will wear No.22 after being No.30 since breaking into the squad.

Jack Ryan wears 27 and Nick Anderton 28 after being 33 and 32 respectively last season.

The highest squad number, 29, has been given to Josh Heaton after he signed pro terms earlier in the month after coming through the club’s academy.

New boy Will Keane, signed on a season-long loan from Manchester United, will wear No.9 – that revealed when the striker completed his move last week.

Keane could make his home debut against Hearts this weekend.

The 22-year-old played at Chorley last Saturday but sat out the midweek game with Bamber Bridge because of a minor knock.

PNE will check his fitness on Friday, the same situation applying to Neil Kilkenny who also missed the Brig game with a back spasm.

Grayson said: “Will has looked very lively in training and showed some really good touches in the Chorley game.

“Over this last week I’ve been impressed with him, he’s shown a great attitude and will only get better the more he gets to know the other lads.

“Will picked up a knock the other day, that is why he didn’t play at Bamber Bridge.

“Hopefully he will be okay to play against Hearts but you have to be careful with any injury at this stage.

“If someone has a knock in pre-season, there is no point playing them in a friendly and risking making it worse.

“Neil Kilkenny had a back spasm earlier in the week and we will wait and see how he is.

“We have one or two other players with aches and pains from the Bamber Bridge game which is only to be expected.

“The players are being trained very hard and after their 45 minutes on the pitch in the first two friendlies, had more running to do after.

“We train on the morning of the midweek games during pre-season.”