Dave Seddon’s PNE press view

Josh Brownhill has enjoyed a successful stint at Barnsley

Josh Brownhill has enjoyed a successful stint at Barnsley

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Wondering out loud, will we see Josh Brownhill in a Preston shirt again?

As the midfielder continues to enjoy his loan spell with Barnsley, talk of him agreeing a new contract at Deepdale has gone quiet.

A couple of months ago, the word from the Lilywhites was that Brownhill was close to extending his stay.

However, you can detect a change of tone more recently.

While there still does seem some hope that he will put pen to paper, the subject of compensation should he leave has now entered the conversation.

That would indeed be the case, with Brownhill out of contract but under 24.

It might be that this little saga runs for a bit longer, perhaps beyond the end of the season and into the summer, closer to when his contract ends in late June.

As well as Preston hoping to get his signature on a new deal, Brownhill seems to be a very wanted young man – if you take as read the speculation which seems to emanate on websites.

Last month it was Rangers and Celtic being linked with him, this week you could add Bristol City, QPR and Fulham to the list.

Agent talk perhaps, speculation drummed up to get clubs interested, or as a negotiation tool in deal talks.

Who knows? But it seems a conclusion one way or another is a while off.

It would be a shame were Brownhill to up sticks and head off to pastures new.

After all, it is always good to see a young player come through the academy and force his way into the first team.

The other side of the argument would be that North End are not exactly lacking in midfield numbers and have hardly struggled during his time out of the team and then away on loan.

With age on his side and undoubted ability though, if the 20-year-old did leave, you might be left with a sense of what might have been?

Time flies and it does not seem like two-and-a-half years since Brownhill made his debut as a substitute in a Johnstone’s Paint Trophy game against Oldham.

A full debut followed at Gillingham a couple of weeks later – and he scored the winning goal to boot.

Two months later, Brownhill had bagged PNE’s goal of the season award, finishing off a 10-man move at Carlisle on Boxing Day 2013 with a glorious swept finish.

He started last season as a regular but a dip in form for both him and the team in January 2015, saw Brownhill dropped.

Just six more appearances followed that benching, whereas he had played in 22 games before then.

North End went on to be promoted, with others preferred ahead of him.

This campaign, Brownhill featured in only six games before being allowed to go to Barnsley on loan in January.

He has done well there, the Tykes turning from relegation battlers to play-off hopefuls in his time there, not to mention him getting a JPT winners’ medal earlier this month.

Going into this weekend’s South Yorkshire derby with Sheffield United, Barnsley sit outside the top six only on goal difference.

Were Brownhill to agree a new contract with North End, he would join a well-stocked engine room.

Paul Gallagher, Alan Browne, Ben Pearson, Daniel Johnson, John Welsh, Neil Kilkenny and Liam Grimshaw are the midfielders currently on the staff.

Room for one more? In an era of three-man midfields, it would not be an extravagance to add Brownhill to that lot.

The question is does he see himself playing regularly or might he have to move on to assure himself of that?

Bearing in mind the current state of play on the contract front, it could be the latter.

Meanwhile, North End will play Aston Villa next season in the league for the first time since the 1973/74 campaign.

Villa’s relegation from the Premier League was confirmed last weekend in a blaze of bad publicity.

The drop, and all the fallout from it, will hit them hard, not least the staff who work for the Midlands outfit.

They have around 1,600 full and part-time workers, a mind-boggling figure.

Such a figure would represent a decent away following in the Championship.

It looks like 500 of those staff will lose their jobs as a cost-cutting exercise.

From the outside looking in, the money saved from axing them will be peanuts when compared with the players’ wage bill, which will surely be the biggest ever seen in the Championship.