Preston boss Alex Neil thinks Stephy Mavididi’s future will be as a centre-forward but he still has plenty to offer from a wide area.
Mavididi played up front in PNE’s 0-0 draw with Bolton on Friday night, filling in for the suspended Jordan Hugill.
At Bristol City tomorrow night, Hugill will return to the No.9 role, leaving Mavididi to compete for a role on the wing or be on the bench.
Neil says that playing wide is a way for the Arsenal loanee to learn the game but without carrying the responsibility of being the main striker.
“Young midfield players are often played at right-back or left-back to give them the chance to learn about the game,” Neil told the Post.
“When you feel they have fully developed and are ready, you ease them into position.
“You can do the same thing with a centre-forward, especially if you are playing one up front and are a critical part of your team.
“A lot of play is built off them and there is a great deal of responsibility.
“If someone is not ready to take that responsibility, a lot of the time you would put them wide to learn the game in that role and gradually phase them in.
“Stephy’s best position in time will probably be the No.9, however with his pace and power if he isolates a full-back he will drift past them and that is a good strength.”
Neil was quite pleased with how Mavididi performed against Bolton.
He felt the 19-year-old was more effective in the first half before the supply line up him dried out in the second.
Said Neil: “I thought him and Paul Gallagher played pretty well in the first half.
“Stephy took the ball in well, ran the channels, was strong and physical.
“He linked the game well for us. I thought we needed more quality in wide areas to supply him with chances.
“Stephy began to tire a little bit in the second half, the ball didn’t stick at the top end of the pitch as much.
“It wasn’t just Stephy, I just didn’t think the front three were as effective.”
Hugill’s return tomorrow will be a welcome one, both in an ability and numbers sense.
PNE were down to the bare bones against Bolton, with Tom Clarke named on the bench after a seven-month absence and Ben Pringle in the squad for the first time this season.
Neil gave special mention to Calum Woods who played at right-back despite having only one day’s training after a knee injury.
“Calum had only trained on Thursday,” said Neil.
“A lot of credit goes to him in terms of putting himself forward to play.
“We are grateful for him putting his body on the line. It wasn’t an easy injury he had.”