Preston have a busy three weeks ahead of them as they look to get their season going properly.
hey have seven matches between now and October 1, before action ceases for another international break.
With the padlock on the transfer window and the emergency loan system consigned to history, there are no distractions – the focus is well and truly on the pitch.
North End have been slow starters both this season and last.
This time last year, they were slightly better off – two points to the good to be exact.
A win and two draws from the first three games gave way to a slide in late August and for all of September.
That slide was only arrested in October and impressively so it has to be said.
Jump forward 12 months, PNE have three points next to their name going into Barnsley’s visit to Deepdale.
Those were courtesy of the 2-0 win at Queens Park Rangers three weeks ago, a result and performance which offered much encouragement.
Unfortunately, that was not followed-up the last time out at Ipswich.
Preston have home advantage for the next two games, Barnsley and then Cardiff occupying the visiting dressing room.
It is then off to London to tackle Brentford before the EFL Cup tie at Bournemouth.
Then there’s a televised home date with Wigan, a midweek trip to Birmingham, before Aston Villa visit Lancashire at the beginning of October.
While it is a long campaign, North End supporters will breath more easily if a decent points return is harvested over these next 21 days.
So how are they equipped to deal with the task of climbing the table?
I suspect the forward line is an area which causes many fans some concern.
Joe Garner is gone and we must wait to see how Jermaine Beckford is progressing in his recovery from a pulled hamstring.
That leaves Jordan Hugill, Eoin Doyle and Simon Makienok for the central roles, with Callum Robinson an option too.
Simon Grayson is working on the theory that an improved supply line could be the key to a better return in front of goal.
Aiden McGeady will be part of that supply line after his arrival on loan from Everton.
Could he be the spark which helps gets PNE firing?
McGeady has the pedigree and talent, now it is a case of him putting a difficult 18 months in the past and finding the form he produced in his Celtic days.
It is a case of surrounding a centre-forward – Hugill, Doyle or Makienok – with players of the ilk of McGeady, Robinson and Daniel Johnson, in order for the goals to come?
An alternative is for a twin strike force, supplied more from wider areas.
McGeady could fit into both systems, with Simon Grayson seeing him capable of fitting in anywhere across the front or just behind.
Further back on the pitch, Marnick Vermijl and Alex Baptiste have arrived to reinforce the defence.
After the experiment of playing Liam Grimshaw at right-back when a flat back four was used, Vermijl will be a more conventional fit.
Baptiste should bring with him the pace which Preston’s back line have been missing since the step-up to the Championship.
He will vying for position with two of the players who have signed new contracts in the past 10 days – Tom Clarke and Paul Huntington.
Johnson and Greg Cunningham have also put pen to paper, North End clearly bidding to maintain stability in the squad while still leaving room for recruitment.
Some fans have voiced concern about the new deals, or more accurately the length of them.
In effect though, the deals in the cases of Clarke, Johnson and Cunningham are two-year extensions on top of the season they had left – but with improved terms.
The last thing Preston needed was to reach next summer with a long list of players out of contract.
Even with these four signed up, there are eight of the squad now in the last year of their current deals.
Meanwhile, PNE’s plans for a new training ground in Ingol were put into the public domain this week.
It is fair comment that we are looking at a long-term project here, with planning applications and regulations not a speedy process.
I have enough miles on the clock to remember North End training at Willow Farm on Longsands Lane – a decent facility for its day.