Adam Reach will not be on the Preston North End team-sheet today but is certain to be on their agenda this summer.
Reach has to sit out PNE’s visit to parent club Middlesbrough as per terms of his loan agreement.
He has been a major cog in the works at Deepdale since last September’s arrival, his versatility being most welcome in a smallish squad.
The big question in the weeks ahead is whether North End can land him again next season?
Signing Reach permanently would be a significant step in strengthening for the 2016/17 campaign.
Preston know him well, he knows Preston well, it would be a deal which really suits.
Much depends of course on what Boro want to do with a lad brought up through their academy system.
Should they get promoted to the Premier League, would the Teesside outfit deem surplus to requirements a player who spent the majority of the season out on loan? Or would they give him a chance to show them what he has learned in his time away?
If Boro don’t make it to the Premier League, they have a lad who has just clocked up eight months of Championship know-how.
Would they then be tempted to hang on him and use Reach for another go at promotion?
It is all ifs, buts and maybes with a month of this season still to be played.
But plans for the summer’s business will be being put in place at the moment and PNE will certainly ask the question about Reach’s availability.
For me, Reach has been one of the most consistent performers in a Preston shirt this season.
He steadily grew in form and confidence, two things which go hand in hand.
The away win at Charlton in October was when I think he started to come into his own.
A powerful run, ending in him being fouled, which led to an early free-kick from which Paul Gallagher scored, saw him click into gear.
In the months since, he has been a regular on the team sheet, starting every game that he has been available for.
Signed as a left-winger, Reach has gone on to operate at wing-back, in a front three and also in the No.10 role behind the striker.
He particularly impressed me in that ‘hole’ position, it was from there where he scored at Wolves in February.
It is more of the defensive side of his game which North End could potentially miss this afternoon.
They are looking thin on numbers at the back, with Tom Clarke definitely out and Calum Woods likely to be, both of them injured against Fulham on Tuesday night.
Paul Huntington and Marnick Vermijl will come in but Reach would have given them another option.
If Grayson had wanted to play a 3-5-2 – a formation he has generally favoured away – he is short of a left wing-back.
It is a role filled either by Greg Cunningham or Reach.
But in order to form a three-man back line, Cunningham would be needed in the middle alongside Huntington and Bailey Wright.
With Reach kicking his heels in the stand, who would play at wing-back?
Callum Robinson could at a push but he mainly operates in a forward gear and perhaps does not have the defensive side of the game needed for the dual role.
Provided Clarke and Woods are not fit, it looks like being a flat back four of Vermijl, Wright, Huntington and Cunningham.
Further forward, the options are more plentiful, both in midfield and along the front.
It will be interesting to see what Grayson opts for in what looks like being one of the most demanding away fixtures of the season. Not that Preston should be going up the A1 with any sense of fear, after all their record against the promotion-chasing clubs is good.
They have taken points off all of the top six, including a victory at current league leaders Burnley, which is no mean achievement.
That said, I don’t see a stronger squad than Boro’s in the division – not too many clubs at this level would have David Nugent operating as a second-choice striker.
I could not finish this column without mentioning Preston’s win at Blackburn a week ago.
For it to be done in front of 7,000 travelling fans was superb, that the biggest away following in England and Scotland last weekend.
Beforehand, when writing about the goal of the season vote, I did suggest that a winning goal at Rovers might find itself high in the voting.
Paul Gallagher’s cross alone would have tempted some to vote for it and didn’t Jordan Hugill finish it well?