Dave Seddon's Preston North End Press View: Derby disaster intensifies the focus on summer recruitment

Two derby games, 20 days apart, triggered such contrasting emotions among Preston North End supporters.

By Dave Seddon
Friday, 29th April 2022, 4:45 pm

How the mood swung at Deepdale from the beginning to the end of month, elation on April 5 to despair on April 25.

The 1-0 win over Blackpool seemed an age ago on Monday night as North End toiled against Blackburn and were beaten 4-1

If beating the Seasiders was the highlight of an up-and-down season, losing on home turf to Rovers in the manner they did ranked down there with the low points.

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Preston North End defender Patrick Bauer tackles Blackburn striker Ben Brereton Diaz

The intensity of the rivalry between PNE and Blackburn isn’t quite the same as that with Blackpool, but boy was that painful at the beginning of the week.

Whether that was a watershed moment ahead of this summer’s plans for the squad, we’ll have to see.

I’m not sure it will have altered the thinking too much of Ryan Lowe who was already well down the line in terms of where he needs to strengthen and who can be let go to free up room in the squad and on the wage bill.

North End have a number of out of contract players who could be shaking hands and be on their way come the next couple of weeks.

Preston North End striker Emil Riis tries to hide his disappointment against Blackburn

None were in the starting XI on Monday night, although loan stars Daniel Iversen, Cameron Archer and Sepp van den Berg will head back to their parent clubs after the final game of the season.

Of the seven substitutes on the bench, three are in the soon to be out of contract group – Joe Rafferty, Connor Ripley and Scott Sinclair.

The remaining players on duty against Rovers, both starters and on the bench, are under contract beyond the summer.

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That does beg the question of whether there will be departures among that group, although trimming the numbers too far would leave an unrealistic amount of recruitment work to be done.

I saw a prediction that this summer’s business needed to be along the lines of 2012 when Graham Westley wielded the axe and built a squad largely unrecognisable from the one which had played the season before.

At this juncture I would be surprised if we are looking at the same sort of movement, in the Championship that just doesn’t seem feasible.

But changes are coming and the squad of 2022/23 will have a fresher, streamlined look about.

Ryan Lowe spoke of having seasoned Championship players on his wanted list, the Bosman market perhaps yielding a couple of early arrivals by the way he was talking at Thursday’s pre-match press conference.

If he’s at the stage of Zoom calls and meetings before the season is out, presumably some of his targets are reaching the end of deals elsewhere and looking for a new home.

The loan market will also be explored again, one which has its successes of late, think Archer, Iversen and Van den Berg. Even think Anthony Gordon, although his loan last season wasn’t a success.

However, the way he has shone in a dismal campaign for Everton, shows that North End looked in the right place even if Gordon didn’t work out here or wasn’t utilised properly.

Which of the current squad stay, have plenty to prove next season in among the new recruits who will be looking to make a big impression.

They need to be able to push North End on from their Championship mid-table home into something more exciting nearer to the upper reaches of the division.

The seasons have been rather similar, followed the same pattern more often than not. At some point there is a bit of promise, a flirt with the top six before results tail off and mid-table looms back into view.

Lowe seems determined to break that cycle and you hope the recruitment this summer and any done in January, helps him to that.

However downbeat the mood was at the start of this week, the forthcoming close season offers promise.

The early bird offer should potentially push the number of season card holders beyond the 10,000 mark, a seat which cost £400 this season now available for next at £280 if bought before June 4.

That coupled with some business in the transfer market, plus a couple of lads graduating into the first-team squad from the academy, and there could be a fresh look about the place when things kick-off on July 31.

It needs it, things have become a touch stale, set in their ways almost, the squad bloated with numbers and evidently not having the necessary quality to push on higher.

Moving away from the first-team scene, congratulations to the reserves on winning the Central League North title on Tuesday thanks to a 3-2 win over Fleetwood who they pipped for top spot.

Played at Town’s impressive Poolfoot Farm training ground, Mikey O’Neill (2) and Harry Nevin scored the goals to give them the three points needed to overhaul their hosts.

It’s been good to see PNE fielding a reserve side this season after a decade’s absence and while the Central League doesn’t provide as stern an examination as an Under-23s league does, it’s a step in the right direction.

Earlier in the season the team fielded tended to lean towards first-team squad players in need of match fitness.

The emphasis changed over the winter with it becoming more of an opportunity for the Under-19s to show what they are about – the starting XI at Fleetwood had nine players from the academy, Matthew Olosunde and Tom Barkhuizen the only seniors.