Outcast goalkeeper Jamie Jones may still have a future at Preston North End.
The former Leyton Orient No.1 is set to report back for pre-season training at North End this week as the only keeper with Football League experience.
Jones began last season very much as first choice at Deepdale after arriving last summer from Brisbane Road.
In the previous season he had been an integral member of Russell Slade’s team, which narrowly missed out on promotion to the Championship – losing to Rotherham in the play-off final at Wembley.
Jones was seen as the replacement for loan star Declan Rudd, who had been recalled by parent club Norwich City.
But after featuring in every game – bar two Johnstone’s Paint Trophy fixtures – in the early part of the season, the 26-year-old was unceremoniously dropped after the 2-1 home defeat to Bradford City in November.
Giant German Thorsten Stuckmann was brought back into the side for the next game – the 1-0 win over eventual League One champions Bristol City at Ashton Gate.
Jones dropped further down the pecking order when PNE boss Simon Grayson swooped for Manchester United’s young keeper Sam Johnstone on loan in January.
Johnstone – who was playing for League One rivals Doncaster Rovers at the time – was handed the No.1 jersey immediately, with Stuckmann relegated to the bench.
For the rest of the season, Jones did not feature for North End and went out on loan to Coventry City and Rochdale, where he made four and 13 appearances respectively.
Currently, North End are depleted in the goalkeeping department after Johnstone’s return to Old Trafford and Stuckmann’s decision to join Doncaster.
It means Jones may still have a part to play as the club prepares for its first season back in the Championship since the 2010/11 campaign.
Negotiations are still ongoing with United about the possibility of Johnstone returning to his home-town, club either for another loan spell or on a permanent deal.
It is believed boss Louis van Gaal is waiting for the future of current United No.1 David de Gea – reputedly a target for Spanish giants Real Madrid – to be resolved before giving the go-ahead for Johnstone to return to Deepdale.
A source close to North End said: “Clearly we need to sort the goalkeeper position out.
“We are in discussion with Manchester United about Sam and if we can bring him back, we will.
“There’s nothing finalised, but it’s not in our hands – it’s in Manchester United’s hands.
“But just at the moment, with Stucky gone, I would expect Jamie Jones to remain with us.”