Dave Seddon's Preston North End Press View: Retained list an opportunity for change at Deepdale

Every so often a club gets a chance for a reboot and this summer is that time for Preston North End.

By Dave Seddon
Saturday, 14th May 2022, 8:00 am

I don’t think we will see the numbers as per the summer revolution of 2012 when there was a revolving door of comings and goings, but things will be busy at Deepdale.

The retained list saw 13 players released, with Matthew Olosunde, Tom Bayliss and Josh Harrop given the chance to find new employers rather than sit outside the squad next season.

In seasons gone by perhaps three or four out-of-contract players might have landed a new deal, just done enough to get another chance to impress and be part of it.

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Not this year, Bambo Diaby the only one coming to the end of his current deal to get the chance to talk about a new one.

That was pretty much the agreement when he signed a short-term contract in January, show promise and we’ll talk again towards the end of the season.

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Preston North End cut their fringe having freed 13 players - analysis of the Dee...

So it’s goodbye to some familiar faces. Paul Huntington we bid farewell to last Saturday in style.

Preston North End winger Tom Barkhuizen vies for possession with Liverpool's Joe Gomez in the Carabao Cup at Deepdale

The sun shone, North End outplayed Middlesbrough and Hunts came on for the last 11 minutes plus stoppage-time.

He’ll actually be back in July for a testimonial, probably a brief run out if he’s contracted to another club by then.

Others leaving haven’t been here as long as Huntington has but they’ve given a fair length of service.

Tom Barkhuizen joined five-and-a-half years ago, some of the younger lads like Mathew Hudson, Joe Rodwell-Grant and Ethan Walker came through the academy so had been connected with PNE since they were in short trousers.

Paul Huntington makes his final appearance for Preston North End against Middlesbrough at Deepdale last week

Joe Rafferty and Connor Ripley’s time at Deepdale dates back to January 2019 which considering what has happened in the world over the last couple of years, seems an age ago.

Homing in on Barkhuizen, fortune and circumstances have gone against him this season.

In past campaigns he was knocking out 40 plus appearances, a go-to pick for Simon Grayson and Alex Neil.

Covid hit him hard early in the summer, being asthmatic a big factor. Barkhuizen had got himself back from that and had strung some games together when a bad tackle in November’s home clash with Fulham damaged an ankle ligament.

He returned from that injury in January, long enough to play three times and then injure a calf muscle in the defeat at Swansea.

In terms of playing, that curtailed his season with him not having kicked a ball at senior level since – 45 minutes in the reserves at Fleetwood his only action.

I always liked Barkhuizen, liked his honesty. Perhaps he didn’t fit the normal look of a footballer, slightly unkempt, no designer wash bag under his arm or big ear phones on his head.

Remember that run of goals he scored after breaking into the team following his capture from Morecambe, a deal in late 2016 which allowed the Shrimps to pay their wages for a couple of months.

Barkhuizen knew where the net was, he was part of that forward line which shone when Neil took over as manager in 2017.

There’s no doubt he will find another club of good standing. The inevitable link is to team-up again with Neil at Sunderland but there will be other clubs watching.

I’m sure the others on the list of those released will get new homes.

Scott Sinclair will attract interest because of what he did before coming to PNE, although it must be noted he was top scorer here in 2020/21 and scored that goal at Bournemouth from all of 40 yards.

He never did settle properly though, in terms of fitting into the team. Sinclair did have some good games but there were others when he simply didn’t make an impact.

Rafferty will be a solid signing for someone. Never really a regular, he was reliable and popular within the dressing room, a good club man.

There was a hint from Ryan Lowe a few weeks ago that he was open to reliable pros being kept on, solid players who could fill a couple of positions.

Perhaps he was talking about Rafferty there. However, the full-back is at the stage of his career where he needs to be playing regularly and that wasn’t happening at Preston.

It’s always a shame to see young players let go, Walker we were excited about when he made his debut aged 16 years and 156 days on New Year’s Eve 2018 against Aston Villa.

A local boy to boot, you just wanted to see him develop into a first-team player. Walker was unlucky to get a shoulder injury while on loan at Carlisle where he seemed to be having an impact.

For whatever reason his progress stalled and it would be great to see him pick up and forge a career elsewhere. That might be locally in someone’s Under-23s where he can be worked with.

Slightly older is goalkeeper Hudson, another to make his first-team debut at a young age. Hudson was 17 when he came off the bench in a Championship game against Leeds at Elland Road.

Jordan Pickford had been sent-off, wrongly the FA later decided, for handling outside the box. John Welsh was sacrificed from the midfield and on came Hudson for his only competitive appearance for North End.

No Leeds player beat him that afternoon, unfortunately team-mate Alan Browne did by heading into his own net!

There should be plenty happening to keep our interest over the summer as those heading for the exit are replaced. How the squad looks in late June when pre-season begins, will be interesting to say the least.