Dave Seddon’s PNE Press View

New arrival Darnell Fisher (photo: PNE)
New arrival Darnell Fisher (photo: PNE)
Share this article

Preston got through their fair share of right-backs last season and it is a position to have been given some more attention this week as the new campaign looms large on the horizon.

Darnell Fisher booked in at Deepdale on Wednesday and will compete for the role on the right-hand side of the Lilywhites’ back four.

Last season, I counted six different players starting in the right-back role.

Liam Grimshaw, Marnick Vermijl, Alex Baptiste, Tom Clarke, Tyias Browning and even Greg Cunningham all had a run there.

Grimshaw filled in early doors, Vermijl and Baptiste then providing an element of security.

Clarke had a few games there when moved out from the centre of defence, then it was Browning there in the early weeks of his loan stay from Everton.

Against QPR and Fulham in late February and early March, Cunningham moved over from the left – an 
emergency call answered by the left-footer.

The knee injury suffered by Calum Woods 12 months ago – two torn ligaments in his right knee – was the start of the right-back instability.

North End had to make do without him for the whole of last season.

While Woods is now over that injury, a groin strain he suffered in training earlier in the month has interfered with his preparations for the forthcoming campaign.

It is probably with that in mind that PNE launched their bid for Fisher this week.

With Woods playing very little football in the past year, he is going to take time to get up to full speed.

Cover and competition is needed for Vermijl, hence the landing of Fisher. Over the last three weeks in 
pre-season, Grimshaw was the alternative for Vermijl in the right-back slot.

It was deja vu from a year ago when he stood in there and played the first few games of last term.

Grimshaw is a midfielder playing out of position and has had very little football in his natural position while at North End.

The arrival of Fisher will bring to an end the necessity to make do and mend.

It is fair comment that his signing for an undisclosed fee from Rotherham did not meet with universal approval among the PNE faithful.

Some Millers supporters gave him a far from glowing reference, although that does seem par for the course these days when players leave a club for pastures new.

At first glance, it is not a signing to leap off the page and grab you.

But haven’t we been here before?

The signing two years of Cunningham was initially frowned upon, by reason of him not being Bristol City’s first-choice left-back.

That same summer, there were groans when Jordan Pickford landed here, on the grounds that he wasn’t Sam Johnstone.

Both turned out to be okay didn’t they?

With Fisher, let’s judge for ourselves what the lad is all about once he’s had the chance to put his boots on and got to know the names of his team-mates.

He was clearly not alone in having a bad time with Rotherham last season.

A change of environment and club could be what he needs – Alex Neil clearly sees something in him.

Rarely do North End sign the finished product, the model being to work with players of potential.

That approach has worked with a number of signings, but not with a few others – the trick is for more to work out than not. On the opposite side of the pitch from where Fisher operates, Greg Cunningham will be wearing the captain’s 
armband this season.

The left-back was named as stand-in skipper this week until Tom Clarke gets back to action after snapping his Achilles tendon.

Cunningham is the right choice for the role, as he is highly respected among his team-mates.

He has experience and leadership, and won’t be shy from sharing an opinion on the pitch.

Last month, I asked PNE fans on Twitter for their view on who the captain should be in Clarke’s absence.

Cunningham was up there as one of the leading choices, together with Ben Pearson.

Maybe it was a bit early for Pearson, with his liking for a yellow card well known.

To help Cunningham, there are plenty of leaders within the PNE dressing room – Paul Gallagher, Paul Huntington and John Welsh to name but three.

It was good to see Welsh finally back in action against Burnley on Tuesday night, nine months after he badly damaged a calf muscle.

The midfielder has had a rough ride since then, with a few setbacks along the way and a shoulder injury then delaying a return.

Welsh’s damaged calf came in the 2-2 draw away at Brighton in October, with him hobbling out of action to leave Preston with 10 men, having used all their subs.

They were 2-1 down at the time but earned a point with a stoppage-time equaliser.

Simon Makienok was the scorer of that late leveller and it was sad to hear this week that the Dane is facing a long spell on the sidelines after damaging his ACL while training with new club FC Utrecht in Holland.