Alex Neil has underlined the importance of Ben Pearson to the Preston team.
The midfielder last night signed a new contract with North End, his deal running until the summer of 2021.
PNE manager Neil rates Pearson highly – in fact he sees him as the best there is in the Championship, in terms of a shielding midfield role.
Addressing supporters at a fans’ forum at Deepdale, Neil said: “Ben is arguably the best sitting midfield player in this league.
“He is a very big player for us and important to what we are trying to do here.”
Neil has given Pearson the sitting role in a 4-2-3-1 system this season.
That allows him to get on the ball early and encourage North End to play through the midfield.
When Pearson missed all of September’s games with a torn thigh, Neil had to adapt PNE’s approach.
Pearson’s ambition is to get promoted with North End, a target he thinks is well within their capability.
“Looking forward into the future, this club is going places with the current squad we’ve got, and I think the only way is up for this club,” said Pearson.
“I think promotion has got to be the ambition, and with a three-and-a-half-year deal, that leaves me with a minimum of four seasons here.
“In that four years we will be looking to achieve that at some point, whether it’s this year, next year or the year after that.
“We will keep plugging away and see if we can get there – I don’t think we are too far away.”
Pearson had plenty of time left on his previous contract, which he signed in December last year.
That ran until the summer of 2020 but the new deal takes him to 2021. It offers both the player and club plenty of security, and it keeps his market value high.
North End have a policy of trying to keep the core of their squad on decent-length deals.
Callum Robinson signed a new deal on Monday to extend his stay to June 2020.
Last week, Calum Woods agreed terms until 2019, his existing contract having been due to run out at the end of the season.
Josh Earl penned a new three-year deal last month, replacing the contract he had signed on turning pro in the summer.
In pre-season, Alan Browne and Tom Barkhuizen both signed new deals.
On the injury front, Neil is hoping to have Declan Rudd back in training this week.
The keeper has yet to play competitively for PNE since returning to the club in the summer due to a thigh injury.
Said Neil: “Dec broke down on two separate occasions with this injury but he should be back training this week.”