Absence makes the heart grow fonder and that has been the case with Paul Gallagher and Preston this last week.
Gallagher’s name was missing from the team sheet for PNE’s home games with Derby County and Bristol City.
A calf strain kept him in the stands and could well do again today when the Lilywhites face Brentford at Griffin Park.
The absence of Gallagher from league action is rare since he came back to Deepdale almost two years ago.
Very rare in fact. The last time he was not in a match day squad for a league game was back in December 2013 due to the fact he was serving a ban.
He has been rested for the occasional cup game but in terms of the league, is a picture of consistency in terms of his availability.
So it was strange for North End to be without him for the last two home games and Gallagher has been missed.
These last two campaigns, he has become an important cog in the wheel in PNE’s attacking play – 13 goals last season, 10 the one before, not to mention him being their highest provider of assists in the 2014/15 promotion campaign.
For good measure, he scored the winner in the one league victory to date this season at MK Dons last month.
He is not everyone’s cup of tea but without Gallagher, this Preston side does lack a forward thrust from the middle of the park.
At times against Derby, so too Bristol City, the gap between midfield and attack was too wide.
It is that area of the pitch which Gallagher operates in, doing his best work, linking the engine room with attack.
Daniel Johnson has done his best to fill that void but is a different kind of player and operates in a different way.
Gallagher might not be the quickest in terms of pace, however he has speed of thought and can spot a pass to help an attack flow. How Simon Grayson opts to fill the Gallagher role this afternoon – that is provided he does not make a faster than expected recovery – we will see an hour before kick-off.
Same again with a midfield three of Neil Kilkenny, John Welsh and DJ?
Or something different in terms of personnel or the shape of the attack in front of them?
I would be interested to see how Alan Browne got on if he was given a starting role.
The young Irishman has got the energy to play box-to-box and could provide the legs to help link midfield with attack.
If it is not today that we get a look at him, the Capital One Cup clash with Bournemouth on Tuesday could provide that opportunity.
Gallagher’s absence is in addition to that of Jermaine Beckford, a striker we are unlikely to see play this side of Christmas.
The pair were big players in the promotion run-in and it was not a surprise that Preston pulled out all the stops to make them permanent signings early in the summer break.
To have them both missing has clearly blunted PNE as an attacking force – as it would any club.
Hopefully Gallagher’s return is fairly imminent and that Stevie May and Eoin Doyle can help fill the void which Beckford’s damaged knee has created.
Away from PNE looking to find their feet in the Championship, our thoughts this week have been with former striker Tommy Thompson who passed away on Tuesday at the age of 86.
Thompson played well before my time but I was aware of what a talent he was from what those who saw him play told me.
However, it was only when delving more deeply into his career record these last few days, that it became apparent to me just how good ‘Topper’ was. His 222 goals in 444 league games for Newcastle, Aston Villa, Preston, Stoke and Barrow, tells its own story.
If a striker scored one goal every two games nowadays, the mind boggles as to what his value would be.
It would certainly win you more than two caps for your country – Thompson having played just twice for England
Thompson found the net 128 times for Preston, once scoring in 11 consecutive league matches – 17 goals went in during that particular run.
The tributes I have heard and read since news of his passing, have all been on the theme of what a friendly bloke Thompson was.
Laughter was always in abundance from his table at at the PNE Former Players’ Association annual dinner over the years.
The last sentence on Tommy’s biography on the former players website reads ‘Tommy Thompson one of the best’. I won’t argue with that.