Dave Seddon's PNE Press View
The arrival of Declan Rudd at Deepdale this week was the start of a battle for the Preston keeper's jersey which will be an intriguing one to say the least.
Who starts between the posts on August 5 against Sheffield Wednesday – Rudd or Chris Maxwell – is a topic set to be extensively debated throughout pre-season.
Here are two goalkeepers of similar stature and this is the strongest competition North End have probably had in that department for quite some time.
I don’t think this is the time to make a judgement on who gets the nod.
It will during pre-season training that Simon Grayson and Alan Kelly run the rule over them.
A five-week audition in effect – with a few friendlies thrown in – to show they are worth a start.
Maxwell is the holder of the gloves by reason of a run of 38 Championship games in PNE’s first team last term.
The Welshman didn’t look back once he got ahead of Anders Lindegaard last September.
He put in some sterling displays and added another layer of defensive cover with his liking for coming out of the box and sweeping-up behind the back four.
Towards the end of the campaign there were a few slips, which was in line with the general slide in form of his team-mates – one point from six games a disappointing finale.
Mitigation to a degree came in the shape of injuries to skipper Tom Clarke and Greg Cunningham in front of Maxwell.
Rudd returns to a club he knows well, having spent from late January 2013 to May 2014 at Deepdale on loan at Norwich.
Grayson made no secret in the summer of 2014 that he wanted Rudd back for a third spell.
As it was, it took three years for that to happen and needed the goalkeeping landscape at Norwich City to change.
Rudd had quite a curious time back in East Anglia after his time at PNE.
He played only two League Cup games in the 2014/15 campaign.
The following season, Rudd initially sat on the bench for Norwich in the Premier League but then got 11 games in the top flight.
One of those was a 2-1 win over Manchester United at Old Trafford.
He then went from the Premier League to League One, loaned out to Charlton for the whole of last season.
Angus Gunn taking the No.1 shirt at Norwich this summer was the cue for Rudd to head north.
In terms of experience, Maxwell boasts more career games than Rudd – 290 starts to Rudd’s 139.
Of those 290 games, 164 of them have come at Fleetwood and PNE, the earlier ones in non-league with Wrexham and Cambridge.
Rudd can boast his time in the Premier League, but the vast majority of his games came in League One – just once did he play in the Championship at Norwich.
Since Rudd last pulled on a Preston shirt, North End have got through a fair few keepers.
Jamie Jones, Thorsten Stuckmann, Sam Johnstone, Jordan Pickford, Lindegaard, Chris Kirkland, Mat Hudson and Maxwell have all featured in goal.
I mentioned him earlier in the column and great credit must go to keeper coach Kelly for the work he does at Springfields.
When keepers have been loaned to North End, clubs are clearly trusting him to help develop them.
When Pickford made his £30m move to Everton from Sunderland last week, that must have given Kelly some satisfaction – that for five months, he worked with a young man who would go on to become the game’s third most expensive keeper.
With regards to the other end of the pitch, the jungle drums in Scotland began beating this week with over interest in PNE striker Stevie May from Aberdeen.
We have yet to see much of May in a Preston shirt, largely due to that awful knee injury he suffered at Fulham in November 2015.
So is talk of a return north of the border premature at this juncture?
May joined North End nearly two years ago with the season already under way and not having had much in the way of a good pre-season with Sheffield Wednesday.
He struggled in those first couple of months at a time when PNE weren’t exactly a sharp attacking force.
Then injury struck, three ligaments torn and goodness knows what other damage done to his right knee.
Fully recovered and with those two starts at the end of last season under his belt, May deserves the chance to show what he can do during pre-season.
The Scotsman did not have the benefit of doing pre-season training last year due to the injury and any player will tell you how important that five or six-week spell is when it comes to preparing for the 10 months ahead.
It could be that valuable time on the training pitch, together with game-time in the pre-season friendlies, is just what May needs to start firing.
After going through what he did with his battered right knee, it would be great to see him find the sort of form which he displayed at St Johnstone and got him his move to English football.