Preston North End won’t have had many busier January transfer windows than the one just completed.
Five incomings, six out on loan and one permanent exit happened during the first month of 2019.
The arrivals were all done by January 23, the loose ends of the departures tied up ahead of Thursday night’s deadline.
It was so important to North End’s season that the incomings happened early doors.
Although only two of them have played so far, the quick business delivered a big boost after a difficult late December and beginning of January.
Jayden Stockley and Brad Potts have shown already what they are capable of and we await to see what Josh Ginnelly, Joe Rafferty and Connor Ripley can do.
In terms of incomings, you are probably looking back to 2012 and 2008 in terms of January being as busy as 2019 was.
Back in 2008, North End spent big by their standards on Richard Chaplow, Chris Brown, Neal Trotman and Michael Hart.
They also brought in Polish keeper Grezegorz Szamotalski on a free – a bald guy nicknamed the ‘Monk’ from Dundee United.
Those five signings came after Alan Irvine had been appointed, tasked with the job of guiding Preston out of relegation trouble.
January 2012 was a busy one as the colourful Graham Westley began his reign at Deepdale.
Andy Procter, Graham Cummins, Chris Robertson, Chris Holroyd, Alex Marrow and Jamie McAlister were among those to arrive, some full-time, some on loan.
Bear in mind, Jake Jervis and Harry Bunn had come in prior to Westley arriving, it was busy to say the least.
I would strongly argue that circumstances of this January’s business are a great deal different.
Irvine and Westley were new to the club when North End hit the market.
Wind the clock forward to the present day and Alex Neil is 18 months into his reign.
January’s business was to cover a few bases.
To some extent, it was a return to targets that had proved out of their reach last summer.
Jayden Stockley fits that particular model.
While it might not have been him they specifically looked at a few months ago, the search for a targetman was genuine.
It had been a search which North End had been undertaking since Jordan Hugill’s big-money sale this time last year.
Neil wanting a targetman was a subject he brought up several times between last summer and finally landing Stockley on January 3.
Potts was someone they returned specifically too, rather than just his position.
The midfielder had been looked at last summer, at a guess after Billy Bodin was lost to a long-term injury.
Ginnelly is a player who Neil will look to develop in time, smooth the rough edges of and turn into a winger capable of playing in the Championship.
A ‘project’s is how the manager described him and time is on Ginnelly’s side at the age of 21.
Rafferty is competition for Darnell Fisher and Tom Clarke at right-back.
Clarke has done well in the full-back role but is more at home in the middle.
Fisher’s performance level had dropped.
So to have competition from Rafferty won’t do him any harm as North End look to finish the season strongly.
Ripley will push Declan Rudd for the gloves and that battle could be an interesting one in the weeks ahead.
The goalkeeping role was perhaps one which maybe needed a shake-up, just to freshen it up.
Getting the five new boys in early was decent business.
Although deadline day can prove entertaining, deals done late can sometimes smack of desperation and a lack of planning.
That is not always the case and some late deals – in either the summer or winter windows – turn out to be great signings.
Into that category I would place Aiden McGeady who came late in the summer 2016 window.
But sometimes leaving business late turns things into a trolly dash.
Time will tell if the 2019 buys are good ones but you can see how they fit into Neil’s way of playing. Of the outgoing deals, the majority are loans and some of them will return.
Andy Boyle’s loan to Ross County takes him to the end of his North End contract.
Fellow Irishman Graham Burke left on deadline day to join Gillingham for the rest of the season.
Burke will return in the summer with two years left on his contract, hopefully the better for a run of games.
It has not quite happened for him at Deepdale since last June’s move from Shamrock Rovers.
His best position does seem to be the No.10 and with Alan Browne having made that his own, Burke has found opportunities limited.
He started promisingly, with the goal against Stoke in August standing out, while December’s injury crisis gave him a chance.
But the fact he didn’t make the squad when the injuries cleared up was telling.