Dave Seddon's PNE pressview)
The Preston North End team-sheet was interesting at Morecambe in midweek in terms of which names were NOT on it.
Eight PNE players were sat in the Globe Arena’s main stand, seven of them available for selection had they been called upon.
Jermaine Beckford, Daniel Johnson, Joe Garner, Anders Lindegaard, Paul Gallagher, Greg Cunningham, Simon Makienok and Stevie May were the spectators.
May we won’t see until late autumn but the others can all be presumed to be first-team regulars in the coming months.
Even without them, North End were still able to field a very decent side against the Shrimps, one which was duly victorious 4-1.
Bear in mind too, Alan Browne, Tommy Spurr and Chris Humphrey were only introduced at half-time, with Tom Clarke joining the action during the second period.
A win over a League Two side in a friendly game might not be a reason to reach for the champagne but it is encouraging all the same.
What it underlined is the very decent depth in the squad available to Simon Grayson.
How many of Tuesday’s side will start the season’s opener at Reading next Saturday?
I would hazard a guess at three – Paul Huntington, Bailey Wright and Ben Pringle.
It could well be the rest are battling for one of the seven seats on the bench.
They would includ Eoin Doyle, Callum Robinson, Ben Pearson, John Welsh, Spurr, Browne and Jordan Hugill.
Steadily, window by window, layers have been put in place in the Deepdale squad.
It might still lack the depth to challenge at the very top end of the division.
But I’m optimistic there is sufficient there to build on what was achieved last season.
Whether the selection at Bolton in the final friendly will offer any clues for who plays at Reading, I’m not sure.
Would Grayson really show his hand in public just a week before the main business starts?
Perhaps what was on show against Stoke last week was more of a barometer.
North End went 3-5-2 for the first hour, a system often favoured in away games.
Of course there is still time for a surprise or two, a slightly different approach or someone forcing their way into starting contention.
Using the five friendlies I have seen to date as a guide, Doyle has certainly pressed strongly his claim.
Whether in the short term that will dislodge Garner and Beckford, remains to be seen.
Robinson was confident and direct in the Morecambe game, so too at Oldham.
How the right hand side of Preston’s team will look in a week’s time, is a key issue.
If they go 3-5-2, Humphrey looks the likely candidate for the right wing-back slot.
With a flat back four, Clarke or Liam Grimshaw seem the options for right-back.
There is time for transfer activity to bolster the choices but if not, take one from Humphrey, Clarke and Grimshaw – system depending.
Going back to the game at Morecambe, friendlies do not normally raise the excitement levels, but what a strike by Pringle for the second goal.
A cleaner ‘ping’ you will not see this summer, even the Shrimps official twitter account choosing to use a clip of the goal during the game despite them being on the wrong end of it.
Meanwhile, the draw for the EFL Trophy – the JPT, Sherpa Van, Freight Rover, Auto Windscreens Shield in old money – got its time in the limelight this week.
It was something I was able to watch from afar so to speak, my interest limited to the fact the draw was done at Football League HQ in Preston by none other than Simon Grayson.
The tournament’s revamp has not gone to plan, with six leading Premier League clubs turning down the invitation to enter Under-23s sides.
It meant the invitation to clubs with a Grade A academy stretched into the Championship.
Somehow, Cheltenham ended-up in the northern section of the draw, with ‘local’ games to look forward to against Everton’s kids, Bolton and Blackpool.
Group G in the northern section is curious, Cambridge, Shrewsbury, Scunthorpe and Middlesbrough landing together in a geographic mis-match.
All this is designed to try and help England win the World Cup in Qatar – there’s nothing like a trip to Teesside in November to ready the young talent of the future for 2022.
Did the tournament need a revamp? The early rounds do struggle to attract crowds but seven of the last 10 finals have been watched by attendances above 45,000 at Wembley.