Dave Seddon’s PNE press view

Daniel Johnson has become a key player since moving to Deepdale

Daniel Johnson has become a key player since moving to Deepdale

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In terms of getting value for money from a transfer fee, the £50,000 which PNE paid Aston Villa two years ago for Daniel Johnson must rank highly.

That amount might just about pay for the left shin pad of a player moving to the Chinese Super League, or one leg of a bang-average player on the move in our Premier League this month.

For fifty grand in January 2014, Preston got a 22-year-old midfielder who had shown in a couple of loan spells that he could hack it very comfortably in League One and had the potential to go higher.

DJ soon got the chance to live up to that potential, with North End promoted to the Championship.

He has been a regular in the side in the season-and-a-half at this level, continuing where he left off in the league below.

Thirteen goals have come from his boots in the second tier, adding to the eight he got in that first half-season in a PNE shirt.

Johnson has averaged a goal roughly every four games in a Preston shirt, decent going from midfield to say the least.

He has played 95 times for the Lilywhites, appearance No.96 set to come against his former club on Saturday.

No one has a crystal ball as to how he will perform at Villa Park but it is fair to say that Johnson will be keen as mustard to impress.

If he plays the game and not the occasion, you wonder if it will concentrate minds at Villa as to how cheaply they allowed a player to slip away.

Simon Grayson remarked in his Thursday press call that one or two folk at Villa were wondering why Johnson had been let go.

The Preston manager put Callum Robinson in the same bracket, compensation for him slightly higher than the fee paid for DJ but still below the £200,000 mark.

Preston have done some great free transfer deals in recent seasons, Joe Garner, and Greg Cunningham two who spring to mind straight away.

When it comes to parting with a transfer fee, DJ has to be up there with value for money – fifty grand has been an absolute steal.

Robinson is also coming along nicely after becoming a fully-fledged North Ender in the summer, following on from three loan spells.

Villa played hard-ball a tad more over a player they’d had on their books since he was knee high to a grasshopper.

The fact he has started every league game bar two this season, shows how well he is developing.

When he signed in July, it seemed like he was there as back-up to others but every credit, Robinson quickly forced his way into regular contention.

He goes into the weekend as PNE’s leading scorer with seven goals, six of those in the Championship.

The fact no player is in double figures yet and did not do so last season, means work is being done to try and add to the forward line before the window shuts at the end of the month.

If North End were to land Robbie Keane, what a coup that would seen as.

In the meantime, credit to Robinson and Jordan Hugill, the man he has been paired with of late, for getting among the goals and helping PNE be more potent than they were last term.

On that point, North End’s current haul of 35 goals from 26 Championship games compares well with the equivalent period last season. They had netted 23 at this stage last year.

Paul Huntington was the 14th different player to score for PNE this term when he put them in front against Brighton last week.

With Daryl Horgan and Tom Barkhuizen having an eye for goal, while Alan Browne and Ben Pringle have yet to get off the mark this season, there is potential for that list to grow.

Talking of Horgan, how impressive was his first start in the Brighton game?

A few wayward crosses aside early doors, the Irish winger excited the Deepdale crowd and dropped a perfect ball over the top of the Albion back line to free Robinson to score the second goal.

The work he did having come inside off the line was something which caught my eye. Aiden McGeady does the same sort of thing, with them bolstering the numbers in midfield when required.

Horgan’s assist was a case in point – he picked up 
possession in field and deep in his own half.

On Wednesday night, it was great to see the attention switch to PNE’s youngsters as they took on and beat a much-fancied Everton side in the FA Youth Cup.

What character they showed, having much the better of the first half and then holding the Toffees at bay in the second.

Extra time was really tough going for both sides, there being an inevitability it would go to penalties.

The outcome was on a knife edge, Everton having the chance to win it before the pendulum swung North End’s way in the shoot-out.

After Preston goalkeeper Callum Roberts saved the last penalty, what a sight it was as his team-mates ran to congratulate him, the ensuing pile-on accompanied by the Courteeners ‘Not 19 Forever’ blasting out through the Tannoy.

Onward to the fifth round and AFC Wimbledon.