Dave Seddon's PNE pressview: Preston destined for a busy summer
After effectively playing two seasons back to back because of the pandemic, football will be glad of its summer break this year.
At Preston North End though, you sense there will be little time to pull on the speedos, rub on the factor 30 and enjoy the sunshine in the summer months.
This close season promises to be busy and it has to be busy.
After the turmoil of the January transfer window in which the squad was given a rapid makeover and big names departed, far more care needs to be shown in its summer equivalent.
I’m assuming here that the Lilywhites get the few more points required to stay in the Championship over the next five matches.
When that happens, the hard yards off the pitch need to commence.
The appointment of a manager/head coach will be top of the ‘to do’ list and that is an ongoing piece of work.
Frankie McAvoy has the interim post at the moment and assuming that he wants the job full-time, he’s currently auditioning.
If things don’t work out for the genial Scotsman, the pile of CVs and expressions of interest in the Deepdale job currently number more than 60.
There aren’t any surprise names on that list I was told this week but the interest from the outside is healthy, as you would expect for a Championship post.
Whoever ends up being named as successor to Alex Neil, needs a squad to work with, and without the distractions of ticking down contracts we had through until the end of January.
In the very short term, five loan deals will come to an end in May, together with a few contracts.
North End will have to decide whether or not to try and bring Daniel Iversen, Sepp van den Berg, Jayson Molumby, Liam Lindsay and Anthony Gordon back to Deepdale for next season.
Iversen you would argue strongly for a return even though Declan Rudd will be fit for next season.
The others you could made cases for and against them returning.
Molumby isn’t starting, van den Berg is being played out of position, Gordon has been struggling to make an impact from the bench of late, with Lindsay a steady Eddie in defence.
Ched Evans this week turned a short-term deal into a two-year contract but there remains Greg Cunningham’s position to consider.
Like Evans, he initially joined on loan and then turned his move into a permanent one.
Cunningham’s deal runs until the end of the season and much hinges on how much he plays between now and May 8.
Louis Moult and Billy Bodin are coming to the end of their contracts, so too Paul Gallagher who is regarded now as a member of the coaching staff who can still play if called on.
Josh Ginnelly, Graham Burke and David Nugent who have been out on loan at Hearts, Shamrock Rovers and Tranmere respectively, come out of contract at the end of June and will be released on free transfers.
With regards the players contracted beyond this summer, there are nine players signed-up until 2023 and three until 2024.
Those who have two more years include Josh Harrop, Josh Earl and Adam O’Reilly who are currently playing away from Deepdale on loan.
Tom Bayliss too, a player yet to break beyond the bench into the first-team with any regularity.
Those with contracts to run until 2024 are Alan Browne, Ben Whiteman and Emil Riis.
North End have a dozen players soon to be going into the final 12 months of their contracts.
Their number include Jordan Storey, Patrick Bauer, Tom Barkhuizen, Brad Potts, Andrew Hughes , Scott Sinclair and Jayden Stockley.
None are in the category that Browne, Daniel Johnson, Ben Pearson and Ben Davies were placed in earlier this season – players who PNE were desperate to negotiate with as their deals ran down.
That saga was a lesson learned in the distraction it caused and ultimately that the two Bens were lost for low numbers.
That little lot just covers the current squad, then there’s the transfer market to play for additions.
There are a number of positions which need work, some dependant on which of the loan players stay on for longer.
A right-back is needed, North End having operated with Browne and van den Berg out of position there since Darnell Fisher’s sale to Middlesbrough in January.
On the left side of the defence, a long-term Davies replacement has to be near the top of the shopping list.
Midfield seems decently stocked at the minute but the wide areas need attention.
A striker is needed too, never mind that Evans has just signed a new deal.
Evans is the physical presence up front but there’s room for more firepower in the squad.
Riis and Maguire will still be around, possibly not Moult, but a squad needs more than three strikers.
If Cunningham signs up and when Earl comes back from his loan at Burton, joining Hughes, the left-back slot is well covered.
In January, it seemed like a deal was being done every day, or one was at least in the pipeline. Things were frantic and results since have proved the squad ended up in a weaker than it started.
Hence the importance of the summer months as things on the pitch take a break but off it they continue at pace.
By next week we should have a clearer picture of how the division is shaping up.
McAvoy will be looking for North End to take care of their own business rather than having to rely on those below them dropping points.
It’s a good while since the club have been in the position of still looking over their shoulders with just five games remaining.
The sooner work can start on planning for next season, the better.
This has been a slog of a campaign and the end is in sight.
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