Dave Seddon’s Preston North End Press View: Ins and outs at Deepdale

Every press conference a manager or head coach attends at this time of year will see them quizzed about transfer activity.

Friday, 13th August 2021, 4:45 pm

The window shuts in a little more than a fortnight, fans and journalists keen to get an update on whether there will be a new face or two coming in by August 31.

Frankie McAvoy is quite new to the job at Preston North End but is already a veteran of fielding questions about strikers and when might one arrive.

He knows the right one would improve the squad and waits patiently for that moment to happen.

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Josh Harrop had a loan spell at Ipswich last season – could he be on the move again?

More and more you can see it being a young striker on loan from the Premier League, probably in the latter days of the window.

Top-flight clubs are still sorting their squads in terms of bringing targets in and assessing those only just back from international football over the summer.

A question for McAvoy at Thursday’s press conference at Euxton centred on the flip-side of the transfer window

Will the time come when some players need to be eased out of the building before 11pm on August 31?

McAvoy’s answer was a straightforward ‘yes’, but it was not person-specific just yet, just a recognition that the squad was on the larger side and the EFL only allow 25 players aged above the age of 21 or on loan, to be registered once the deadline has passed.

Clubs can have as many players as they want but only 25 in the category mentioned above can be on the roster.

Any excess will still be on the wage bill and unable to play competitively.

North End have 28 players in the over-21 or on loan category – 19-year-old Sepp van den Berg counts as he’s borrowed from Liverpool for the season.

For the next months, you can take Izzy Brown out of the equation as his rehab after Achilles tendon surgery gets under way.

So it’s down to 27, two more – minimum – need a move to hit 25.

If the striker search bears fruit, that’s another slot which needs freeing-up, unless its the permanent signing of a player under the age of 21.

As numbers are trimmed, does it also need to be borne in mind that there is now a sizeable group of youngsters at the club?

Lewis Leigh became the latest kid to join the pro ranks when he signed a three-year contract on Thursday. Joe Rodwell-Grant, Jacob Holland-Wilkinson, Lewis Coulton and Ollie Lombard had done likewise previously.

Noah Mawene and Josh Seary will see their agreed pro contracts triggered when they turn 17.

Above that group in terms of age are Ethan Walker, Adam O’Reilly and Jack Baxter.

There’s no limit on how many younger players a club has, they don’t need to be registered like the more senior lads.

You want them to have a realistic chance of pushing for first-team involvement if good enough, not their path blocked by a long line of players in front of them.

So who potentially could be moving out before the end of the month in order for PNE to get the numbers more manageable?

Connor Ripley is a prime candidate, with North End having four senior keepers available once Declan Rudd completes his time on the sidelines following concussion protocol.

Or could there be the chance for Mathew Hudson to get some first-team games on loan?

As far as outfield players go, Josh Harrop could find a new home. Although his loan at Ipswich didn’t go to plan in the second half of last season, there will be interest coming from League One.

There could be an issue of clubs not wanting to contribute a huge sum to his wages if it was a loan deal.

But it could end up being the case of PNE having to accept lesser terms than they once might have expected.

Is Josh Rafferty another who could move on? He’s in the last year of his contract and was linked with Sunderland last month.

That link seemed to quieten down quickly, the Lilywhites at the time seeming reluctant to consider letting him go.

Again, though, will the landscape be different come the last day of August?

Tom Bayliss’ situation could lend itself to a loan move. Two years on from his £1.2m arrival, his appearance count stands at nine starts and 11 appearances off the bench. He’s had to miss the first two games of the season through no fault of his own, with him pinged.

In pre-season Bayliss didn’t pull up any trees, so is much going to change?

A slightly slimmed-down squad would do North End no harm, with some savings on wages.

The younger group can form the core of the reserve side for the Central League but it would be healthy for them to see the first team as being in sight.

On the field, the first two games of the season conjured up different emotions.

Despair after last week’s 4-1 defeat to Hull gave way to more of a smile on Tuesday night at Mansfield.

The alarming bit from the Hull game was how easy it was for the visitors to score their last two goals. It had echoes of the late collapse against Brentford last season when a 2-0 deficit suddenly became five.

Heads shouldn’t drop when there’s only a goal in it, as seemed to be case on the opening day.

The trip to Mansfield was much better, even taking into account the Stags play their football in League Two.

It was nice to revisit Field Mill, a ground which was a second home for North Enders in the late 1980s and through to the mid-1990s.

They also fared rather well there, whether it be a flick of Tony Ellis’ quiff for the winner in the rain, or a stoppage-time John Thomas header in the FA Cup after the first attempt to play it in the early days of Sky was abandoned by fog.

Mick Rathbone once turned into Lionel Messi to net the wining goal there, then in 1994 a victory at Field Mill halted a seven-game losing run. Happy days.