Background to Preston North End's late finish to the summer transfer window

Preston North End left it late to complete their business in the transfer window, the clock having long since struck 11pm when Josh Murphy and Ali McCann were announced.

By Dave Seddon
Wednesday, 1st September 2021, 6:00 am

The pair had been targets for a decent chunk of the summer but only in the latter stages did things fall into place.

There was a 'home international' flavour to the completion of the deals, Cardiff City attacker Murphy signing the paperwork for his season-long loan in South Wales while McCann held talks with PNE from Belfast where he's with the Northern Ireland squad.

Those talks culminated in a move for midfielder McCann from double Scottish cup winners St Johnstone for a fee around the £1.2m mark.

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Josh Murphy has joined Preston North End from Cardiff on a season's loan

"We hadn't planned for things to go so late," said PNE director Peter Ridsdale, the representative of North End owner Trevor Hemmings.

"Ali and Josh were players we had been working to try and get for some time but we hadn't managed to make the numbers work for both parties in the deal.

"It was when it was getting closer to the deadline that we got all got to a position where things could get over the line."

McCann, 21, is a midfielder who can play as a six or eight to use the modern day midfield terminology.

Ali McCann in action for St Johnstone against St Mirren at Hampden Park

Having made the highest number of tackles in the SPL last season, it suggests he could fill the Ben Pearson role - boots which haven't fully been filled since January.

He's got the ability to push forward too, box-to-box if you like.

Likewise, 26-year-old Murphy can fill a couple of different roles too. He's known as a winger but at Cardiff last season, played up front a number of times.

In North End's 3-5-2, he offers the option of playing as a second striker, alongside Emil Riis or Ched Evans.

Murphy and McCann weren't the only two targets in the closing stages of the window.

Strikers were looked at on loan, two in particular at Brighton and Hove Albion.

It is understood that they spoke with the Seagulls about Andi Zeqiri but the Switzerland Under-21 international opted for a loan move to the German Bundesliga with Augsburg.

Then a deal was explored with Brighton for Abdallah Sima who was arriving from Czech Republic side Slavia Prague in a £6m transfer and was to be loaned out straight away.

In the end Brighton loaned 20-year-old Sima to Stoke City for the season.

Back to the players PNE did land, and they got a close-up view of McCann in July in the pre-season friendly against St Johnstone at McDiarmid Park. McCann played 72 minutes of the 1-1 draw.

He was very much seen as the Saints' prize asset and the size of the fee - somewhere between £1m and £1.2m - was seen as being on the low side by some of their supporters.

This is McCann's first move having been on St Johnstone's books since the age of 12.

Frankie McAvoy described him as 'one of Scotland's best young players' in the press release to accompany his arrival, North End's head coach having kept a close watch on football back home north of the border.

McAvoy knows plenty about Murphy from his time as No.2 to Alex Neil at Norwich City.

Although he spent time out on loan at Wigan and MK Dons in the first part of McAvoy and Neil's time there, Murphy returned to play regularly in the 2016/17 season.

Towards the end of that season, Murphy scored for the Canaries in a 3-1 win over North End at Deepdale.

In June 2018, Cardiff splashed out £11m to sign him after being promoted to the Premier League. Another Cardiff recruit at the time was Greg Cunningham, so he will be a familiar face for Murphy when he arrives for training at Euxton today.

There were no outgoings from PNE on deadline day. Interest was shown in some of the players on the fringes of the squad but nothing materialised.

Social media rumours of a move out of Deepdale for Tom Barkhuizen proved to be nothing more than that, the gossip having grown legs on Twitter as fans waited for proper news.

Now comes the job of submitting a 25-man squad to the EFL as per Championship rules.

North End have 28 available players over the age of 21 or on loan, so three are going to be disappointed in terms of not being able to play league football between now and the next window.

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