Dave Seddon’s PNE Press View

Marnick Vermijl is on his way back to fitness
Marnick Vermijl is on his way back to fitness

The sight of Tommy Spurr hobbling around Preston’s training ground on crutches, just about able to put a bit of weight through his recently-repaired knee, was a symbol of the rotten luck which has hit North End of late.

PNE, and their defence in particular, are limping into the international break, which cannot come quickly enough.

Just lately, it seems that a new name has been added to the casualty list every couple of days.

Defenders have dropped like flies, Spurr, Ben Davies, Marnick Vermijl, Josh Earl and Calum Woods joining Greg Cunningham and Tom Clarke on the sidelines.

The first five on that list have been hurt or taken ill since the last international break – Cunningham has been out since August and Clarke’s absence goes back to Good Friday.

As Alex Neil has been at pains to point out, these are not in the main trivial knocks picked up in training.

We have not been quite able to delve fully into 
Vermijl’s absence but 
information on the others has made for grim reading.

Spurr tore the medial ligament in his left knee in the opening moments of a bounce game at the training ground against Oldham.

Hence the crutches and knee brace at Springfields, having gone under the knife in London the other week.

Medial ligaments are also the concern for Earl and Woods, perhaps Woods to a greater extent than Earl.

As for Davies, he 
needed an infected appendix whipped out.

When you bear in mind that Clarke ruptured his Achilles and Cunningham had a tendon come away from the bone, all in all these are pretty gruesome injuries, not your common or garden hamstring and groin strains.

There is no turning back the clock, they’ve happened, with the task being on Neil’s shoulders to get North End through this difficult spell as best as he can.

The situation should ease slightly with Vermijl’s return expected this weekend, that said him being back does not solve the shortage of bodies in the middle.

You are looking at Davies’ return later in the month to drag the numbers up from threadbare in that section.

The question has been asked by some fans whether North End were sufficiently equipped to cover this injury epidemic?

My answer to that would be that no club could have done so.

When Preston drew with Sunderland before the last international break, they had four fit and available central defenders in Davies, Spurr, Paul Huntington and Andy Boyle.

Huntington and Davies had started every game since Cardiff on September 12, and did so until last Saturday.

From that victory over Cardiff through to the clash with Sunderland, Spurr was an unused substitute.

Until last month’s visit to Fulham, Boyle had sat on the bench once all season for a Championship game.

Yet the finger is being pointed that numbers were not sufficient at the back.

So a genuine question: How many players can you carry for one position?

Had North End signed a fifth centre-back before the August deadline, for the large part that would have been three players sat out doing very little.

Bear in mind Clarke is still to come back too.

No one could have foreseen such an injury pile-up in one area of the squad.

It is situations like this where the emergency loan market could once provide a helping hand. Alas, FIFA forced the Football League to close that last year – this is the second season it has not operated.

One road which has not been closed off is that of the free agent signing.

But that will not always provide the sufficient quality needed.

If a player hasn’t got a club in November, you have got to ask yourself why not.

You’ve then got the issue of the level of fitness they are at.

It is one thing being able to build up a player’s match-fitness but if they haven’t been training with a club since the previous season, will they even have a basic level of fitness?

There could be someone out there but it might be for now North End soldier on with what little they have got.

I suppose it shows that players are never totally out of the picture. Boyle until this week had not kicked a ball in the league since the final day of last season – now he has a run of games ahead of him.

Away from Deepdale, the axe fell on former North End manager Simon Grayson at Sunderland on Tuesday.

Just a few minutes after the Black Cats’ 3-3 draw with Bolton, Grayson was given his cards. It had been only four months since he chose to leave PNE to take up the 
offer from Sunderland.

The grass isn’t always greener, Grayson finding to his cost that Sunderland’s problems run deep below 
the surface.

His exit from Deepdale on the first day of pre-season had the potential to derail North End. Thankfully the transition to Alex Neil proved to be a smooth one.

Neil could do with that smoothness after the bumps from the injury list of late.