David Nugent’s fitness will dictate how much of an influence he will have for Preston North End this season.
The 34-year-old’s return this summer to the club where he first made his name as a goalscorer of some repute was met with some fanfare.
However, the former Leicester City, Portsmouth and Burnley striker has yet to kick a competitive ball in anger due to injury.
Prior to signing, Nugent had undergone surgery to repair damaged knee cartilage – an injury suffered playing for Derby County in the play-off semi-final first-leg against Leeds United in May.
Behind the rest of the squad in terms of fitness during pre-season, Nugent was restricted to just 45 minutes in a friendly at Fleetwood Town less than a week before the start of the new season.
Eager to give him more minutes on the pitch, boss Alex Neil organised a bounce game against Salford City earlier this month.
Unfortunately the former England international – who scored 37 times for North End in his previous two-year spell at Deepdale – came off complaining of a tight calf. Neil is confident that Nugent can have a major role to play this season once he is fit and firing.
“We need to get him fit first,” said Neil. “We had a bounce game to try to get him minutes but he pulled up with a tight calf.
“He’s not really been back on the grass since.
“It’s his availability really which will determine as to how much game-time and minutes he will get this season.
“If he’s available and doing well, he will get as many minutes as he can.
“That experience which he has got is great to have around the place but we want it on the pitch and we are working hard with him to try to get him fit.”
Meanwhile, Neil revealed he is happy to see Sean Maguire and Alan Browne once again get called up by their country.
The pair have been named in Mick McCarthy’s provision squad for the Republic of Ireland’s European qualifier against Switzerland on September 5, followed by a friendly against Bulgaria five days later.
“As a player you want to try to get as many plaudits and recognition as you can,” said Neil.
“The two lads deserve to be in the squad and I know Mick well and know he will look after them.”