Dave Sedddon’s PNE pressview: Preston’s Ben Davies can count himself unfortunate not to make the Championship’s team of the season
I didn’t see many surprises in the Championship team of the season announced by the EFL earlier week, one voted for by the managers in the division.
All 24 bosses are asked to submit their best XI (not voting for their own players) and from that the representative side is put together.
The final XI featured three Norwich players, two each from Sheffield United and Leeds, with Hull City, Middlesbrough, Wigan and Birmingham all having one player in there.
Overseeing them was Chris Wilder, the Sheffield United manager getting the nod as the section’s best boss.
No Preston players made it into the XI and 17 other Championship clubs missed out too.
Are we back to last week’s topic in this column of North End going under the radar or was no one from Deepdale deserving of inclusion?
When I asked PNE fans on Twitter for their thoughts, I got a range of answers.
Some were very much in the ‘going under the radar’ camp – of those, some were happy with it, some weren’t.
Of those sitting in the first category, they would rather no one take notice of Preston in such polls and for them to continue going about their business in a quiet way.
Others saw the fact no PNE players were in the XI as a snub, more high-profile clubs getting the attention.
There were those who put forward the names of Ben Davies, Alan Browne and Ben Pearson as those who might have made the team.
If anyone was going to make the cut from Preston, I thought Davies might have done.
For all we know, he might not have been far away and some managers could well have voted for him.
Browne too, with 11 goals from midfield, must have been in the minds of some of the voting managers.
Pearson? If this was a football beauty pageant, he might not have caught the eye of opposition managers due to his style of play.
Loved at PNE, he probably isn’t quite as popular beyond the city’s outskirts.
I’m not going to pick over the chosen XI because all have their merits.
Seven players from the current top three are in there.
Norwich have both of their full-backs included in Max Aarons and Jamal Lewis, so too striker Teemu Pukki.
Fair play, Pukki looked a class act at Deepdale the other month, even though he finished on the losing side.
Liam Cooper and Kalvin Phillips make it in from Leeds, with Billy Sharp and Oliver Norwood flying the flag for Sheffield United.
For completeness, Che Adams from Birmingham, Middlesbrough goalkeeper Darren Randolph and Wigan’s Reece James were the others selected.
James is a right-back by trade but made the XI as a central defender.
His was the name which I saw a few question marks against, probably by reason of Wigan being further down the table.
That said, he is reported to have been a class act in his loan stay from Chelsea and did look good at Deepdale in October.
It brings me back to the merits of others, Davies in particular.
He’s been excellent for a good portion of the season, shaking off a rocky start in line with a good number of his colleagues.
A big bonus has been the partnership Davies has formed with Jordan Storey.
Briefly seen early in the season when PNE beat Leeds, they came together in January and haven’t looked back since.
Davies is approaching the end of his second full season in the Preston team.
It was some trust which Alex Neil put in him when he pitched the Barrow boy into the team in August 2017.
After all, Davies had spent the previous two or three years clocking-up games away from Preston on loan.
He’s come up the hard way, getting a brief taste of first-team action when he was 17.
Graham Westley gave him his chance in January 2013, Davies playing the last three games of the Westley era.
He spent the next season at York City, playing a full campaign of football.
Simon Grayson felt that Davies had done enough in that year at York to merit a place in PNE’s side at the start of the 2014/15 season.
Playing at left-back, he had a tough time and soon got replaced.
What followed for Davies were spells with Tranmere, Southport and Newport on loan.
Then came half a season at Fleetwood in the upper reaches of League One which seemed to move him up a level.
He’s not looked back since then, with Neil handing him the captain’s armband for the Birmingham game.
Would Davies have thought when playing on Newport’s muddy pitch in 2016 that three years later he’d be skippering PNE?
He might not have made the Championship XI but Davies is bound to be high in the voting for North End’s player of the year when that time comes around.
The defender has won young player of the year in the past, so what progression it would be should he get the nod from the PNE fans for the main award.
As things stand, he would get my vote.