Dave Seddon’s pressview

Jermaine Beckford shares a joke with boss Simon Grayson
Jermaine Beckford shares a joke with boss Simon Grayson
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On Sunday the time has come for Preston to focus on the football, to say ‘hello’ to the Championship after four long years away.

When the Lilywhites step on to the Deepdale pitch against Middlesbrough, it will be 77 days since Wembley.

Much water has flowed under the bridge since that glorious afternoon in London.

Players have come and gone, some targets were landed, others slipped through the net.

There has been debate and bickering among fans on social media over transfer policy – a modern way to fill the summer void while the start of the new season is awaited.

Kick-off is now almost upon us, Middlesbrough’s visit to Lancashire the first game at this level since North End bid a sorry farewell in May 2010.

It was not meant to be a four-season absence but that turned out to be the reality.

Now the challenge begins to establish themselves back in the second tier.

Much of the close-season talk among the faithful has revolved around transfer dealings.

Six additions have been made, four fresh faces in addition to the full-time signings of Paul Gallagher and Jermaine Beckford, with nine players having left.

Stronger or weaker? The numbers might have dipped but I sense the quality has risen this summer.

Of course the true test of that line of thinking will come when action resumes.

It should not be judged solely on Sunday’s result, whichever way things go, more so over the opening weeks.

Greg Cunningham, Will Keane, Jordan Pickford and Marnick Vermijl are the new boys, a mixture of potential and some experience of the Championship.

Cunningham has played at this level with three clubs, Keane during loans at Wigan, Queens Park Rangers and Sheffield Wednesday, the Owls also providing Vermijl with a handful of games in this division last season.

This will be Pickford’s first taste of the Championship, parent club Sunderland seeing a season of football here as the next stage of his development.

The initial target was of course Sam Johnstone but it seems North End could wait no longer.

Their dilemma was clear to see, risk waiting longer in the hope of Manchester United lending him out, only for that not to happen, or making the decision to move on.

Had Pickford not become available late last week, I get the feeling they might have waited that little bit longer for Johnstone.

But the manner in which Pickford is regarded on the football circuit, meant a change of course was finally worth taking.

In terms of the numbers of departures being greater than the incomings, is that such an issue? Two of those to leave in the summer, Lee Holmes and Keith Keane, did not kick a football in the league for Preston last season.

David Buchanan, Jack King, Scott Wiseman and Sylvan Ebanks-Blake had only limited involvement over the second-half of the campaign.

Kevin Davies in the main played a supporting role from the bench once Joe Garner and Beckford teamed-up after injury and illness respectively.

On the flip side, Scott Laird was a regular, Thorsten Stuckmann likewise in the middle section of the season.

Both chose to move on, Laird’s exit leaving a gap which was only recently filled by Cunningham.

So the ratio of arrivals to departures evens itself out to some extent when things are put into that context.

Vermijl’s arrival provides options for that right-hand side of the defence.

He frees Tom Clarke up to play in his preferred role in the centre of defence, although the skipper did not fair too badly in the right-back berth at Wembley did he?

Bearing in mind Vermijl has not had a great deal of game time in pre-season at Wednesday, it could well be that he is not considered to start against Boro.

So Clarke might stay on the right for the time being should Simon Grayon opt for a flat back four.

Vermijl also has the pace to play as a wing-back should that system be in Grayson’s thinking this season.

So steadily, varying options have opened up to the North End manager.

As I alluded to in Friday’s back page, the necessary deals have been done just in time to the start of the campaign.

It might that more business happens to add competition in other areas – Cunningham, Pickford, Vermijl and to a lesser extent Keane, arriving to fill specific vacancies.

Let the football begin, a new season with new dreams.