PNE boss wants core strength

PNE skipper Tom Clarke has signed a two-year contract

PNE skipper Tom Clarke has signed a two-year contract

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Simon Grayson says that keeping the core of Preston North End’s promotion-winning squad in place has been a big part of his summer plans.

Five players have signed new contracts since the play-off final win at Wembley, with two more turning loan stays into permanent moves.

The Lilywhites boss is now trying to add a sprinkling of new faces to the squad ahead of the Championship return.

Skipper Tom Clarke and PNE player of the year Paul Huntington were the first to commit their futures, penning two-year deals last month.

Chris Humphrey and John Welsh followed suit, with Joe Garner signing a three-year contract this week.

Jermaine Beckford and Paul Gallagher are now on the books full-time following successful loan spells.

On the flip side of the coin, eights players have left – six of them released, while Thorsten Stuckmann and Scott Laird turned down contract offers.

Grayson told the Evening Post: “I never had any doubt that these lads would sign because they are enjoying their football and were committed to what they were doing.

“Towards the end of last season, I stressed to all the players that I wasn’t going to do anything with signing players or extending contracts until we knew where we were as a club.

“All of them accepted that and it gave them that little bit more of an incentive in that they were playing for their futures as well.

“It is nice to keep together that core of players who helped get us to where we are now.

“If I didn’t think they were going to be able to compete in the Championship and contribute next season, then they wouldn’t be here.

“We saw Brentford and Wolves keep the nucleus of their squads after promotion last year.

“They added some more quality and both clubs did very well in the Championship, having good seasons.

“The dressing room is an integral part of your club, you are together all the time and work hard for each other.

“Team spirit goes a long way when you are trying to be successful.

“You are never going to have it 100% happy because players shouldn’t be happy if they are not playing.

“But it is nice when your players are friends as well as being team-mates – they look out for each other.”

PNE’s attempts to add bring in new signings are ongoing.

Both full-back positions are high priority, while another striker is on the shopping list.

“Money bids have gone in for a couple of players – we aren’t just reliant on the loan market,” said Grayson.

“When you are looking to strengthen, you have to take into consideration a lot of different factors.

“You need to bring the right types in and that has to be done at the right cost in terms of fees and wages.

“There are players you would love to have but who are unrealistic for this club at the moment.

“Likewise, there are other players who would love to play for us but I don’t think would be good enough.”