Dave Seddon's PNE pressview: Next season must be the one where Tom Bayliss stakes a claim to a first-team place for Preston

Footballers tend to enjoy facing their former club so there was a spring in the step of Tom Bayliss as he made his way on to the pitch in Preston North End’s win over Coventry last week.

Friday, 30th April 2021, 12:30 pm

It wasn’t quite a return home for the former Sky Blues midfielder, with City currently lodging in Birmingham.

Bayliss didn’t get chance to raise a gallop at St Andrew’s either, his time on the pitch amounting to roughly 60 seconds after replacing Ched Evans.

The substitution was made in the 96th minute and the final whistle sounded as the clock ticked into the seventh minute of time added on.

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This season has been another one where fans have not had too many glimpses of Tom Bayliss

Time has again stood still for Bayliss this season, the PNE faithful’s patient wait continuing to see what the 22-year-old is all about.

It is not necessarily the case that he hasn’t progressed at Deepdale these last two seasons, perhaps it being more the case that circumstances haven’t allowed – it almost being out of his hands.

We are not much further on than at this stage last season as to what Bayliss can offer North End.

The end of last season was of course in July due to the campaign being paused for three months part-way through.

At Bristol City on the final evening of the 2019/20 season, Bayliss got 15 minutes as a substitute. That was his Championship debut following a few games in the cup competitions.

It was seen as a premiere of what he was about ready for much more this season.

Ten months on, we are none the wiser.

Bayliss has had a bit more game time, clocking-up 180 minutes of Championship action. But 103 of those minutes were from the bench, coming on as a sub.

Nottingham Forest at home on January is so far his one start in the league in 2020/21.

Bayliss played the next week in the FA Cup at Wycombe and got the hook at half-time.

We didn’t see him again until last Saturday as PNE ran down the clock.

Considering the outlay for Bayliss in August 2019, around the £1.2m mark, it is a surprise we haven’t seen more of him.

Not that a big fee should automatically shoot a player up the pecking order, however when Preston are operating on the budget they do, value for money is rather important.

Last season could be considered a settling-in period, Bayliss coming from playing in League One and League Two before that.

It must be remembered that he had ankle surgery during the campaign, not long before we were locked down last March.

When this season started in September, we thought Bayliss would very much be in the thoughts of Alex Neil.

Alas for him, he wasn’t, others ahead of him in a midfield with healthy numbers.

While North End lost Ben Pearson from that number in January, they also gained Ben Whiteman and Jayson Molumby.

The fact Molumby has only had limited game time and will return to parent club Brighton after May 8, shows how stiff the competition is in midfield.

One opening this season for Bayliss might have come in the fact Paul Gallagher wasn’t going to play as much.

Gallagher though, was still very much in the plans and starting as recently as Neil’s penultimate match in charge at Middlesbrough on March 15.

It would be nice to see what Bayliss can offer at some point in the last two games. But having found a formula which has delivered 11 points in six games, you’d forgive Frankie McAvoy for not wanting to experiment much in the matches with Barnsley and Forest.

Hence Bayliss will go into a third season still trying to impress and establish a regular squad place.

Next season he has to make an impression or at least be given the opportunity to do so.

There is clearly potential there but it needs unlocking at some stage.

If Bayliss was to get a chance this weekend, that wouldn’t get the airing on social media that it might otherwise have done any other time.

From 3pm on Friday through to 11.59pm on Monday night, English football is uniting to stage a boycott of social media platforms. Clubs won’t be posting on their Twitter, Facebook and Instagram accounts.

Players, pundits and some media organisations are joining the boycott in the hope that it gets the tech companies to act over the abuse some users dish out to players on social media.

Hardly a weekend goes by at the moment without a player being subjected to abuse due to the colour of his skin or his nationality.

Yet it is rare to see any action taken against those who troll and abuse from behind the anonymity of a faceless account.

It might be hard to change the behaviour of those who use their handful of brain cells in such a way but the tech companies behind social media need to do a lot more to stop it and should be doing a lot more.

For it to have got to the stage where such a mass boycott is needed, shows how little notice has been taken of the problem.

I’m joining in with the boycott. All the PNE news will still be going on the Lancashire Post website but I won’t be using Twitter and Facebook to signpost people to what has been written.

Web hits which are vital in the media industry might well take a hit as a result.

But for this weekend, there is more at play, look at the bigger picture.

I quite understand that some fans will feel they are being punished by the actions of a few. It is like the whole class at school being kept behind because one pupil has messed about.

But if in time the stance of English clubs and those who show their support, does lead to the tech companies listening and beginning to take action, this few days will have been well worth it.

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