Dave Seddon’s Preston North End Press View: Izzy’s big challenge
Izzy Brown has a season to take a big step forward in his football career and showcase the talents he clearly has on a consistent basis.
Brown was Preston North End’s third piece of summer transfer business when he signed a Bosman this week.
He’s got a 12-month deal for starters, with PNE having dangled the carrot of a second year should Brown do well in 2021/22.
At Championship level a year’s contract is very much a short-term thing and every credit to the player for agreeing to it.
Brown must be confident of showing his worth and turning that into a longer stay – he’s backed himself.
From North End’s point of view, it is a low-risk strategy with a player who is starting a new chapter and needs to put some roots down.
Should it not work out, Brown will be away next summer.
If it does work, they have him for a further season and would have time on their side to turn it into something even longer.
Home for Brown since 2013 had been Chelsea, the Blues having paid West Bromwich Albion youth training compensation to take him to Stamford Bridge as a teenager.
He didn’t spend a great deal of time at ‘home’, in that Chelsea loaned him out seven times.
The loan path can be of great benefit to some players and in parts it will have done Brown good.
However, seven loans is on the excessive side and at the age of 24, you either make it with your parent club or look elsewhere.
Brown has done the latter, Chelsea having freed him at the end of his contract.
Some of his loans have worked out, others not.
Vitesse Arnhem was his first loan, the club in Holland who Chelsea have ties with.
Rotherham followed, a decent number of games played there in the first half of the 2016/17 campaign.
In the second half of that season Brown moved across Yorkshire to Huddersfield and had his stand-out loan in terms of achievement.
He helped the Terriers win promotion through the play-offs, regularly starting in their frontline.
Although Brown didn’t stay to play in the Premier League with Huddersfield, he still got some top-flight football on loan at Brighton the next season.
It was while on the South Coast that he suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament which ended his 2017/18 season in January.
He went on loan to Leeds the next season but was still in effect rehabilitating from the knee injury and played only two first-team games.
Brown had the 2019/20 campaign with Luton and then spent last season at Sheffield Wednesday.
It wasn’t the easiest of seasons for anyone at the Owls, Brown not alone in struggling to find form.
And so he finds himself at a new club, with the ‘loan player’ tag gone and the chance to start afresh at Deepdale.
The ties with Chelsea are cut, the safety blanket of a Premier League parent club gone.
Brown is now an out-and-out Preston North End player, his fortunes will run parallel with theirs.
Where Frankie McAvoy plans to play Brown will be interesting.
When I spoke on the phone to Brown the other day, he said the No.10 role was his favourite.
He was to quickly add that he felt at home playing on either wing or even back in a central midfield position.
If McAvoy’s go-to system remains the 3-5-2, where would Brown fit there? I presume he would play as the most forward of the three midfielders where Alan Browne, Daniel Johnson and Brad Potts have all operated.
McAvoy could play him as a second striker in that system.
It might be the diamond shape he used once at the start of his stewardship would suit Brown more.
He would fit either at the top of the midfield diamond behind the strikers, or on either side.
We might get more of a clue once the pre-season friendlies start, see what McAvoy has in mind for him.
Brown’s arrival could see movement the other way in terms of balancing the numbers in the squad.
North End are right up to their 25-man limit in terms of players aged 21 and over or those on loan.
Josh Harrop seems to be one of those in peril, with him playing those roles I’ve just listed when it comes to Brown’s strengths.
PNE have an abundance of central midfielders, less so options in wide areas.
After the ink had dried on Brown signing, the attention turned to the publication of the fixture list on Thursday.
‘Fixture release day’ as it is now marketed, holds the attention for an hour or so and then you get busy with something else.
With this being North End’s seventh season in the Championship, there wasn’t much new among the fixtures.
Locking horns again with Blackpool was the stand-out, diaries at either end of the M55 now cleared for October 23 and March 19.
Let us just hope that the kick-off times are kept as sensible as possible, that is presuming we are back to normal regarding getting fans through the turnstiles.
Two of the relegated clubs from the Premier League only lasted a year up there, the other two seasons.
Hull, who are Preston’s opening-day opponents, are back in the division after one season away.
So it’s fallen to Blackpool and Peterborough to bring a touch of freshness.
In general, the fixture computer has behaved itself from PNE’s point of view.
Bournemouth away on a Wednesday night in November is the big grumble, that said North End’s last two visits there in midweek have both resulted in 3-2 victories.
There’s a midweek trip to Luton too, while Middlesbrough away as ever is on a Tuesday night.
At least Boxing Day is at Deepdale, with Sheffield United the visitors.
And on New Year’s Day, we’ve only got to drag ourselves as far as Stoke City’s bet365 Stadium.