Dave Seddon's PNE pressview: Midfielder Ryan Ledson has enjoyed a break-out season for Preston
Ryan Ledson’s fortunes have changed for the better in the last 10 months.
Congratulations to the Scouse midfielder who this week did the double in Preston North End’s player of the year awards.
The PNE fans voted him as their player of the year, as did his team-mates.
A windy Euxton training pitch was the venue for him to be presented with the awards – social distancing doesn’t allow for anything too glamorous.
I’m not privy to any voting figures but I’d hazard a guess the supporters’ vote was a straight fight between Ledson and loan goalkeeper Daniel Iversen.
Without doubt Ledson was the most consistent outfield player during what has been at times a difficult 2020/21 campaign for North End.
Contrasting his fortunes to last season, he’s almost come from nowhere.
In the Covid interrupted 2019/20 term, Ledson made only eight Championship starts and five appearances from the bench.
Five of those starts came from July 4 onwards in the restart period. Before then he had a bit-part player, even operating as an emergency right-back.
They do say finishing a season well can be beneficial for the start of the next one and that has been the case for 23-year-old Ledson.
He was actually on the bench for the Championship opener against Swansea on September 12 but started at Norwich the next week and hasn’t really looked back.
Ahead of the final game of the season of the season at Nottingham Forest, Ledson has started 30 matches in the league and come off the bench five further times.
A torn calf muscle cost him five weeks and it could be argued it was costly to Alex Neil too in the sense it deprived him of a key player soon after the sales of Ben Davies, Ben Pearson and Darnell Fisher.
North End won only one of the eight matches Ledson missed. He returned short of full power for the Luton game which proved the end for Neil at Deepdale.
Ledson’s statistics show him top of the PNE charts for assists, setting up five goals for colleagues.
He’s been booked the most, referees showing him nine yellow cards.
The former Everton man is averaging 1.5 key passes per game, the best in the North End squad.
Ledson has spent 2626 minutes on the pitch, the fourth best figures behind Alan Browne, Tom Barkhuizen and Andrew Hughes.
He’s scored two goals having not found the net in his first two seasons here.
The first was a low shot from the edge of the box at Rotherham in November, the second at Deepdale against Derby the other week when his free-kick from the wing travelled in without anyone getting a touch.
Ledson has matured from the slightly hot-headed lad who was signed from Oxford United three summers ago.
The one who was sent-off in only his fifth North End game for a wild tackle on Lewis Baker at Elland Road when they dumped Leeds out of the League Cup, the one who caught Wigan’s
Kal Naismith chest high with a challenge later that season to earn another red card.
He’s more controlled with his tackling now, mind you Blackburn’s Tyrhys Dolan might disagree with that statement after being knocked into the middle of next week by a Ledson challenge at Ewood Park in February.
Ledson should be a key player again next season as Preston look to improve on this soon-to-be-finished campaign.
He’s got the skill set to do a bit of everything in the midfield, from putting his foot in to playing a killer pass at the other end.
Ledson’s journey at PNE may offer hope to Tom Bayliss that patience can be rewarded.
Bayliss has had much less action than Ledson did in his first two years but will see that a pathway can open up.
You could also bring in Jordan Storey into the equation, signed just a month after Ledson was.
After a decent run in the side in the second half of his first season at Deepdale, Storey has since had to bide his time somewhat.
Should the defender play at Forest, it will be his 18th start in a row, a run which shows he is establishing himself.
When players step-up a division or two, it can take them quite a time to find their feet and show what they are all about.
That was always an argument which Neil put forward when introducing new signings into the squad to replace those who had departed for bigger things.
It’s almost one step forward and two back as they wait for a player to show their potential.
The aim for Ledson and his team-mates is to finish off the season on a high against Forest at the City Ground.
It wasn’t long ago I couldn’t wait to see the back of this season but the recent recovery under Frankie McAvoy has made things more enjoyable.
Next week we should start to get some clarity on which direction North End are going in with regards their next manager or head coach.
Stick with McAvoy or go external? There are strong arguments for both, hence PNE have plenty to weigh up.
Let’s finish 2020/21 first and let’s try and enjoy Gentry Day as best we can with it being a virtual event.
Fingers crossed, the bowler hats will be back at an away ground somewhere next season.
It’s been a tough 15 months and as we pause for thought on Gentry Day, there will be plenty of North End fans remembering someone who has been lost to them.
Former PNE players who have past away since last year’s virtual Gentry Day include Nobby Stiles, Tommy Docherty, Michael Robinson, Alex Dawson, Doug Holden and Leo Gornall.
A toast to them all, a clink of the glass in memory of anyone with Preston North End connections who sadly are no longer with us.
Preston fans are the best, they are the Gentry.
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