Dave Seddon’s PNE pressview: No need for Preston to sell in January

Preston North End's crown jewels Ben Davies, right, and Ben Pearson
Preston North End's crown jewels Ben Davies, right, and Ben Pearson

It’s getting towards that time of year again, the excitement is growing, so too the anxiety in case things don’t quite live up to expectation.

Christmas? No, I’m talking about the January transfer window which is less than six weeks away.

Transfer window chat never really goes away, it bubbles away in the background and gets louder as opening time approaches.

Preston boss Alex Neil was asked about it at his press conference on Thursday and no doubt it will become a recurring theme of the weeks ahead.

Other managers were to reference the January window and beyond this week. I saw quotes from Brendan Rodgers about Leicester City having no intention to sell.

Even Jose Mourinho in his presentation to the media as Tottenham manager, spoke about the challenge of holding on to his best players.

That was the theme at Springfields as Neil faced the press ahead of the visit to Derby County.

When the conversation turned to January, the main question was about keeping hold of key assets.

Neil briefly touched on recruitment to strengthen the squad but the main message focused on his best players not being for sale.

There was similar said at the fans’ forum last week and that could prove to be the key business in the first month of 2020.

Some will say they have heard similar in the past, notably before Jordan Hugill left in January 2018.

Greg Cunningham and Callum Robinson have since moved on in big-money deals too.

However, it might just be that things are different in January should there be interest in the North End squad’s crown jewels.

You would put the two Bens – Ben Davies and Ben Pearson – in that category, Alan Browne too.

Neil hit the nail on the head on Thursday when he said: “These lads are happy to be here, want to be here, we think we are on the cusp of doing something quite special.

“This is certainly the closest we have been for a number of years.”

The line about being on the cusp, so too this being the closest they’ve been – to the Premier League – is telling.

Neil is genuine in his belief that North End can challenge consistently over the full season for promotion.

Him and others in the club hierarchy see this as far more than a flirtation.

And to help try to turn the hope into reality, Preston need their key performers staying around.

Davies has been linked with a few clubs in the Sunday papers and for good reason – left-footed, ball-playing centre-halves don’t grow on trees.

Neil won’t be alone in holding Pearson in the highest of regards when it comes to defensive midfielders in the Championship.

Browne’s profile is growing again after his establishment in the Republic of Ireland squad.

You could throw Daniel Johnson into the mix too, by reason of the midfielder’s form this season.

They need to still be Preston North End players on February 1.

Referring back to Hugill, he had seemed keen on a move for some months before he got one to West Ham for £9.5m.

There had been a transfer request the August before, then the Hammers came knocking with an offer which was too good to turn down.

I can’t see any of the present lot pushing to get away. Yes, they will be looking for better contracts at Deepdale but are unlikely to be looking to jump ship in January.

If that indeed is the case and the squad is kept intact, the summer could be interesting.

Should North End get promoted, it’s job done and keeping players can be a far easier job.

If they don’t and by then contracts are down to the last 12 months, that changes the landscape.

Let’s not get too far ahead though, we’ve still got a week or so of November left.

On the playing front, it will be good to see the back of the international breaks for a while and get a long run of uninterrupted football.

There are four months before the next break and the division will really take shape in that time.

Staying on the North End theme but in a different way, it was great to be part of a gathering of PNE fans at the Deepdale Labour Club this week for a talk from Keith Harrison who has written the excellent ‘North End Souls’ book.

It’s been a labour of love from Preston fan Keith for the last few months and it was fascinating to hear the tale of how the book was put together.

Special guest on the night was John Thomas, a striker who played such a big part in the 1986/87 promotion campaign.

They say you shouldn’t meet your heroes but I did, Thomas a favourite player of mine in his two spells in a Preston shirt.

Even in the re-election season, he knew where the net was. It was frightening that after 28 goals in the season they went up, PNE sold him for £35,000!