Ben Pringle can count himself unlucky to have been on the fringes of the Preston squad in recent months, according to Simon Grayson.
The midfielder has not kicked a ball in 2017 or made the bench for the last five games.
Pringle looked to be PNE’s marquee buy of the summer when he moved to Deepdale from Fulham – opponents for the Lilywhites today at Craven Cottage.
But it has been a stop-start time for the 27-year-old in a North End shirt.
PNE boss Grayson told the Post: “I had a conversation with Ben during the week and said that when we signed him in July he was one of our key signings.
“It has just been down to the progression of the club and where we have moved to that he has not had the opportunities he would have liked.
“He got into the team and played quite a few games but then had an asthma attack which put him out of the team.
“Other players have been brought into the club and have taken their chance – Daryl Horgan and Tom Barkhuizen.
“Then we had other lads such as Aiden McGeady and Callum Robinson who were already here and doing well.
“Ben has been unlucky, he works very hard in training.
“It just shows the strength in depth that we have got in the squad.”
Pringle started the first four games of the season and after dropping to the bench, forced his way back into the side in October.
His last start came against his former club Rotherham on November 5. During the international break which followed that game, Pringle has the asthma attack which sidelined him for the 0-0 draw with Wolves.
He came on as a sub against Blackburn and Nottingham Forest in December then had a nine-game run on the bench without coming on.
The last time Pringle was among the subs came at the end of January at Cardiff.
Grayson says he is not far from being back in contention and has pointed to other players having come into the side.
“Chances do tend to come along, an injury or loss of form would open the door,” said Grayson.
“We carry the size of the squad which we do because there is no emergency loan window anymore.
“Ben is like a lot of players in the Championship who are very good players but are not getting the football they think they should get, and deserve to get, because we are all having to carry bigger squads.”
When players are out of the team, Grayson will always have them training with the squad.
He said: “Since I have been a manager, my philosophy is not to have a group who are training on their own.
“There are certain times when the group who have not played on a Saturday have to do extra work, that is just the nature of keeping fit and being ready for when they are called upon.
“It goes back to when I was a player at Blackburn. Graeme Souness had a group of 10 or 12 of us training on our own.
“That was something which I didn’t agree with.
“I always try to treat my players how I wanted to be treated when I was playing.
“Being part of the group, even if you don’t make the squad for a game, is a big thing and that is what I have tried to encourage here.
“This season there have been quite a few occasions where players have come back into the team or on the bench, having not been involved for a while. The door is never shut to anyone.”