Dave Seddon’s PNE pressview

Republic of Ireland's Sean Maguire makes his international debut
Republic of Ireland's Sean Maguire makes his international debut

Alex Neil made a decent point when talking about the Preston players who had been away on international duty.

The headline act from a North End perspective of the international break was Sean Maguire, the striker having made his senior Republic of Ireland debut as a substitute against Moldova.

Then three days later, he was an unused sub in the Irish’s 1-0 win over Wales at the Cardiff City Stadium.

Sat on the bench in the other dug-out was Maguire’s Lilywhites team-mate Chris Maxwell.

Somewhere behind them sat in the stand was Daryl Horgan – in the Ireland squad but not in the match day 23.

North End boss Neil was to remark during his press briefing this week that PNE’s form could well have been a factor in Maguire’s first cap and Maxwell’s first time in a senior squad.

It is fair reasoning. Many a time, surprise was expressed when Maxwell missed out on a place in the Wales squad.

We were not expecting him to jump in as No.1 keeper but surely he was worth a punt in one of the cover slots.

Out of the blue somewhat, his opportunity came and hopefully there are further call-ups to come for a keeper who clearly feels so much pride at representing his country.

Maxwell’s form has been good this season, only five goals shipped in 11 league games.

The fact that there are a few clean sheets in among that run was a factor which Neil felt was crucial in his goalkeeper’s call-up.

As for Maguire, it would be fair comment that he was banging on the international door while with Cork City.

However, a move from the League of Ireland to England was needed for him to push that door open.

Not that Maguire’s arrival at PNE automatically led to him being called-up.

He needed regular games and to show he could score goals in the Championship.

Maguire has cemented a place in the Preston team, starting 10 of the 11 league games to date.

Two goals in successive games against Barnsley and Cardiff were also timely in terms of when Ireland boss Martin O’Neill was naming his squad.

The aim for Maguire and Maxwell now is to kick-on and continue showing the form at club level which has got them international calls.

A carrot dangling for Maguire, indeed for the rest of the Irish contingent at North End, is the possibility of going to the World Cup.

Ireland are in the play-offs next month, two games away from Russia 2018.

Between now and next month’s international break is a fixture list which is both demanding and exciting from Preston’s point of view.

Fulham and Wolves away back-to-back will be a test but at the same time, to be embraced rather than feared.

You could look at those in the same way we did at the opening set of fixtures in August.

The first five games of the season had a daunting look yet North End came through them in decent shape.

Fulham move the ball well as we saw on Gentry Day last season but also leave space to play in which is something Neil’s men will seek to use.

As for Wolves, they have started the season well and are certainly seeing a return on a big summer outlay.

Those two games on the road are followed by a pair of home clashes with Brentford and Aston Villa.

Then it is off to Ipswich to round-off this block of games before the third break in the fixture card.

Should PNE come out of that little lot with a decent hand of results, it will send them into winter in decent shape to say the least.

Key to that might well be Ben Pearson’s involvement.

It appears that he is on his way back to fitness, the fact he has been training this week confirmed by Neil.

He missed all six of the games in September, North End unbeaten without him.

But there is not doubt that they still missed him, the blow slightly softened by the return of John Welsh.

When both were missing against Sunderland before the international break, PNE conceded two goals for the first time in the league this season.

Pearson is a clever player, with so much more to his game than being a shield to the back four and picking up yellow cards like confetti.

He moves well with the ball and has a good passing range, that key to how Neil ideally wants North End to play.

I started the column on an international theme and I’ll end on it.

England qualified for the World Cup with a 1-0 win over Slovenia and never has qualification been met with so much apathy.

They are at a stage where they just cannot raise any level of excitement or indeed expectation.

Is that down to England boss Gareth Southgate, the players or the FA and their ‘DNA’ thinking?

Could it be a combination of them all? A manager who struggles to inspire, a group of players who can’t seem to match their club form when on England duty – one or two excepted – and a muddled message from the FA who down the years have lacked an identity.