Preston North End boss says Joe Rafferty can follow in Deepdale old boy’s footsteps
Alex Neil sees some similarities between Preston new boy Joe Rafferty and former defender Greg Cunningham.
Right-back Rafferty joined the Lilywhites from Rochdale yesterday, the 25-year-old the fifth January arrival.
Although he operates on the opposite side of the back four than Cunningham did, North End boss Neil sees a likeness in the pair.
“Joe really reminds me of Greg Cunningham, except that he is a right-back rather than a left-back,” said Neil.
“They have similar traits and that is a good thing.
“I thought Greg was a really good acquisition for this club and did really well here.
“Hopefully Joe will live up to those standards, if he does he will be very good for us.”
Neil had been keen since the start of the window to add a right-back to the squad. With a deal for Rafferty in the offing, Calum Woods was allowed to open talks with Bradford City and yesterday joined them on a deal until the end of the season.
The right-back slot has been filled by Tom Clarke or Darnell Fisher this season, Neil wanting competition for those two.
Said Neil: “Calum covered right-back and left-back for us, and Joe can do that.
“For Rochdale last week, Joe was right-back for the first half and left-back in the second.
“We’ve missed Tom Clarke a few times this season through injury and illness.
“I thought Darnell had a good game at QPR last week but up until then he hadn’t shown the form he had done last season.
“We wanted to bolster that side of the defence, make sure we don’t get left short.
“This season has been a story of being left short in certain positions.
“We’ve watched quite a bit of Joe, he’s a good character as well and will fit in this group.
“For me, he ticks all of the boxes and that’s good.
“We’ve been quite busy in January which is a bit unusual because normally we would do more of our work during the summer.
“What we did was to look at players in certain areas which we thought would strengthen us.”
North End had run the rule over a few right-back targets including Accrington Stanley’s Callum Johnson.
They set the ball rolling on Rafferty last week, with much of the deal pretty much done by Tuesday night.
It was completed yesterday morning with Rafferty able to join his new team-mates for training.
He kicked off his career in Liverpool’s academy and after being released at 16, signed for Rochdale.
Rafferty has played 257 games for Dale, including 33 this season which means he will not lack match fitness.