North End keen to extend Tonge's stay

Alan Irvine will hold talks soon with his Stoke City counterpart Tony Pulis about the possibility of extending Michael Tonge's stay at Preston North End.

The midfielder's loan spell runs out after Monday's clash at Sheffield United – the club he served for eight years before joining the Potters.

While the 26-year-old has only been on the winning side once in six games since arriving at North End, the midfield has looked stronger with him in it.

And not surprisingly the PNE boss is keen to still have the Mancunian at his disposal in the New Year.

Irvine told the Evening Post: "I have had initial discussions with Tony Pulis regarding Michael.

"We've agreed to get this game out of the way then we can talk further about it.

"Stoke obviously don't want to commit themselves too much at this stage just in case they pick up a few injuries from the Christmas games.

"But once the loan ends and we have a bit of time to talk, I think the picture will become slightly more clear.

"It's Stoke decision what happens first and foremost, then Michael's, then we can make a decision after that. I've been really pleased with what he's done here. Michael is a good passer of the ball, turns well and he's given us something a bit different.

"He has enjoyed it here, he needed to play some first-team football and we've been able to give him that."

Tonge can expect a warm welcome on a chilly South Yorkshire afternoon at Bramall Lane.

He forged his career with the Blades, making almost 300 appearances for them in all competitions between 2000 and 2008.

A 2.75m move to Stoke in September last year ended his association with United, but the move wasn't a successful one.

Tonge has started just one Premier League game for the Britannia Stadium outfit, the Carling Cup and FA Cup providing his only other starts.

Said Irvine: "This is a nice game for Michael to end this loan spell.

"When I first spoke to him about coming here, I mentioned that Sheffield United away would be the last game with the loan running until the end of December.

"He said it would be a game he'd look forward to – hopefully he can put on a good performance and we can get three points."

Richard Chaplow, who has partnered Tonge in the centre of midfield throughout his stay, hopes PNE and Stoke can come to an agreement over extending the loan.

Chaplow said: "Tongey has put in some great performances here and I think he can only play better as time goes on.

"He hadn't played a lot of football for a while before he came here, so the more minutes he gets on the pitch will benefit him.

"You could say this is like a mini pre-season for him in terms of getting some match fitness. Fingers crossed the gaffer can come to some

agreement with Stoke and hopefully keep Michael here for another couple of months or even the rest of the season.

"He's a great lad and has fitted in really well in the dressing room."

Follow Preston's fortunes on as they visit Sheffield United in the Championship on Bank Holiday Monday. And there will be comprehensive coverage in Tuesday's Lancashire Evening Post

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