Derby closing in on PNE star Coutts

North End trialist Peter Enckelman in action for Scottish club St Johnstone
North End trialist Peter Enckelman in action for Scottish club St Johnstone
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Preston North End midfielder Paul Coutts is edging closer to a move to Derby County.

The Scotsman held talks with the Rams yesterday and was resuming them today as he eyes a return to the Championship.

Coutts is one of eight members of the squad who North End are inviting offers for – the incoming transfer fees and freeing up of space on the wage bill will help ease the Deepdale coffers.

Those eight players are training apart from the remainder of the squad for the time being, with few expected to have a long-term future at PNE.

Derby are looking to strengthen their midfield, and have money to spend after receiving a fee of around £1m for the sale of centre-half Jason Shackell to Burnley.

They are the second Championship outfit who have been in for Coutts this summer, the 23-year-old having turned down a move back to former club Peterborough last month.

If a move to Derby was to be sealed, it could trigger some further incoming transfer business at North End to add to the deals completed earlier in the close season.

PNE made 12 signings in May and June, although Richard Wright left last week just a matter of days after his contract came into play. The 11 others will be on show tomorrow when North End open their pre-season friendly programme with a clash against Southport at Haig Avenue.

It’s set to attract a big following from Preston, with ’Port officials anticipating a decent-sized crowd at Haig Avenue.

Finding a replacement for Wright is currently high on the agenda, and former Aston Villa and Blackburn goalkeeper Peter Enckelman looks set for a run out tomorrow.

The Finnish shot-stopper trained with North End at Springfields yesterday, and is one of a number of keepers who Graham Westley has been running the rule over this week.

Enckelman, 35, is a free agent after being released by Scottish side St Johnstone at the end of last season.

Westley is keen to have experienced competition for player of the year Thorsten Stuckmann.

The keeper might not be the only trialist on show tomorrow, with Westley hoping to field a different XI in each half.

While fitness is the main exercise of the early pre-season friendlies, PNE boss Westley is keen to establish a winning mentality from the word go.

He said: “My focus is always soley on the next game, and for us that is Southport tomorrow.

“Everyone here is looking forward to getting back into action and this will be a good first test for us.

“During pre-season we want to build up a belief that we can carry into the opening game of the season.

“My aim is winning games and that is what we want to do at Southport. We’re all in football to win matches, whatever the status of that game is.

“I can’t get my head round the idea of going into a game and not being bothered about winning it.

“The lads have worked really well in training over the last 10 days or so, put in the hours and tested themselves.

“Tomorrow’s game will be an extension of that work and we’re looking forward to it.

“I’m hoping I can field completely different XIs in each half, so the Preston fans who go over will get the chance to see the new squad.”

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