PNE stars’ staying power

John Welsh (centre) has been offered a new contract by North End
John Welsh (centre) has been offered a new contract by North End
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Simon Grayson has sought to keep together a number of Preston North End’s promotion-winning squad ready for the challenge of the Championship.

While five players have left Deepdale this week and a sixth has been released, Grayson’s intention is to keep hold of the core group who triumphed in last Sunday’s League One play-off final at Wembley.

Already tied down to new deals are skipper Tom Clarke and Paul Huntington, who was the club’s player of the year.

The defenders have signed two-year contracts.

Fellow centre-back Bailey Wright is also staying, PNE having exercised a one-year option on his contract.

Talks will be held with Wright’s representatives soon about a longer deal, the option the club have taken up being more of a stop-gap measure.

Contract offers are on the table for John Welsh, Scott Laird, Chris Humphrey, Thorsten Stuckmann and young keeper Steven James.

Talks are to take place with Kevin Davies in the next few days over his plans.

A combined playing and coaching role is an option which has been put forward by North End.

At the other end of the age scale, one-year options have been taken up on teenagers Nick Anderton and Jack Ryan.

Anderton is recovering from a broken ankle, sustained when on loan at Barrow.

Ryan had two successful loan spells with Stockport last season and both are held in high regard at Deepdale.

Joining them in the young professional ranks will be defender Josh Sampson.

He has signed his first 
pro deal after coming through the youth system. Sylvan Ebanks-Blake has been released, the striker having started only two games after joining in January.

His exit follows that of Jack King, Scott Wiseman, Keith Keane, David Buchanan and Lee Holmes this week.

All were out of contract and have quickly got themselves fixed up with new clubs.

Wiseman has joined King at Scunthorpe, Buchanan signed for Northampton yesterday, Holmes has penned a deal with Exeter and Keane has gone to Cambridge United.

The remainder of the squad are under contract until next summer.

The exits of the released players will help free up room for new arrivals, with Grayson looking to strengthen ready for the next level.

He wants Paul Gallagher, Sam Johnstone and Jermaine Beckford back at Deepdale after successful loan spells.

It is understood that talks were held with Beckford’s advisors on Wednesday and another meeting is scheduled for next week.

A deal to sign Johnstone is still very much alive, contrary to social media rumours.

Discussions are planned with the goalkeeper’s agent and parent club Manchester United over the coming days.

North End officials will meet with Gallagher’s agent next week.

Also on Grayson’s shopping list are full-backs on both sides of the pitch.

And even if PNE sign Beckford, another striker will be needed, while a winger could also be on the cards during the summer.