Dave Seddon's PNE Press View
The pre-season friendly programme is well under way and what a strange animal it is.
That period of a few weeks where results do not really matter, where trialists have their day in the sun, where players wear the wrong numbered shirts – or do not have a number on at all.
It seems English football has relocated to Ireland, Austria and Portugal at the current time, judging by the numerous training pictures popping up all over social media.
Preston have spent the last few days over the water in Ireland, training at the Fota Island resort near Cork.
Fellow guests of the good folk of Fota were Fulham, the sides meeting in a friendly on one of the training pitches on Tuesday afternoon.
It is fair to say that the Londoners had the better of things, beating PNE 5-0.
How do you react to a result like that, balancing the fact it was a walloping but only in a training pitch knockabout?
It is hardly time to hide the sharp objects and predict a season of woe ahead.
However, clearly there is work to be done – something you would expect with another three weeks to go until the season kicks off.
That is not brushing the loss under the carpet but let us put a few things into context.
North End had rolling subs, with manager Simon Grayson making changes after 30 minutes, at half-time and again on the hour.
The ‘subs’ he made during the second half were players from the first half being re-introduced.
A truer picture of where PNE and Fulham are at will emerge when the teams play in the Championship at Deepdale in a month’s time.
While not being overly gloomy about events in Ireland, nor was anyone getting carried away by last weekend’s wins over Bamber Bridge and Chorley.
Both were in essence fitness exercises, a chance to put the boots on again and get some competitiveness back into the system.
I always enjoy these two annual fixtures, the Chorley game perhaps having a little more of an edge to it.
At the Brig game, there was a five-month old baby cradled in mum’s arms in the row in front, sleeping blissfully for the first half before waking and taking a good interest in the trio of journalists and their laptops.
Baby and laptops were almost put at peril by a Josh Heaton clearance into the main stand, one which a bloke further down the stand cut out with a header of which Tom Clarke would be proud.
At Chorley a few hours later, the Magpies attack was led by a striker with no number.
A process of elimination quickly identified him as Sefton Gonzales, a good job too as it was him who won a penalty with only 33 seconds played.
It is hard to assess too much from last Friday and Saturday’s games but one or two things stood out.
Paul Gallagher and Ben Pringle showed some nice touches in both matches, with Eoin Doyle the sharpest of the strikers on show.
Tommy Spurr impressed down the left before having to hobble off at Chorley when he twisted his ankle.
As more of the friendlies are played, we will get a clearer picture of Grayson’s favoured systems and who is likely to get the nod for the season’s opener at Reading.
Neither team sheet, I’m glad to report, at Brig or Chorley had ‘Trialist’ written next to a number, thankfully.
There were trialists playing but they had been properly named – no nom de plumes used here.
Frequently in pre-season, you come across the Trialist family making their annual appearance.
Once upon a time, clubs were able to keep the identity of players on trial pretty much under wraps.
But in this day and age, it is a futile exercise, a click on Twitter bringing about a quick answer.
At the other end of the scale, away from the scene of players going on trial in a bid to earn contracts, the transfer market is beginning to kick into life.
What is clear is the extra money coming the Premier League’s way from their new television deal, is shooting prices up.
Bang average players are now attracting bids of £12m or £15m.
Clubs won’t necessarily be better off as a result of more TV money coming in – the extra will be swallowed up by bigger fees, bigger wage demands and no doubt bigger payments to agents.
Whether the public will see the prices paid reflected in the standard of football in this season’s Premier League, I am a touch sceptical.