Dave Seddon’s Preston North End Press View: A missed opportunity to strengthen

Connor Ripley and Declan Rudd (right) will fight it out for the gloves
Connor Ripley and Declan Rudd (right) will fight it out for the gloves

Football’s transfer deadline day is something I can take or leave, it can both excite and frustrate in equal measure.

Generally in the early days of the window, both summer and winter, deals take days or weeks to be done, rules strictly applied.

Then suddenly on the last day, chief executives, agents and accountants turn the dial up to 11 and work as if their final hour is approaching.

Players get from one end of the country to the other, medicals are sailed through, buttons are pressed on deals at a speed like never before.

I can take or leave what deadline day has to offer, If a deal is there to be reported on, it can be rather fun to see it develop and get done with the clock ticking down.

If all is quiet, fair play, there is always some other work to do.

On Thursday though, I sat in the office rather missing the involvement in the whole shenanigans.

Not because I have a liking to wear a yellow tie or an urge to stand for hours outside a training ground waiting for news to come out.

It was because I saw it as an opportunity missed by Preston North End to give the squad that little bit of an upgrade it needed.

I saw other clubs in the Championship do what looked to be decent business and I can’t help but have a sense of ‘what if?’ about the whole summer window for PNE, not just deadline day.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not one who judges a whole window on what happens on the final day of trading.

But the question has to be asked if the Preston squad is stronger now than it was at the end of last season?

I would argue not and that is not just so I fall in line with the thoughts of others.

This is not about trying to compare PNE’s incomings to that of any other club. It is simply about looking at what Alex Neil will have available to him between now and January when the window reopens.

I’ve no issue with the four signings they made, all will bring something to the table.

Numbers-wise, North End are fine, probably a bit on the top-heavy side – a lot of clubs will be similar.

It’s not quantity, it’s that bit of quality which might be in short supply.

There is no natural cover at left-back for Andrew Hughes now that Josh Earl has gone to Bolton on loan and unfortunately got hurt early doors.

Getting Earl a run of games was sensible for his development – bring out more of that potential he showed when he first broke into the team two years ago.

But it would have seemed prudent to cover Earl going out, indeed North End did put in an offer for Max Lowe at Derby.

That bid got turned down and it has left Neil to view Joe Rafferty and Darnell Fisher as Hughes’ cover.

Perhaps that would do for a game or two but should Hughes get an injury which lasts any length of time, would one of the two right-backs be deemed sufficient cover?

With Neil having never quite settled on a regular goalkeeper – Declan Rudd has been the nearest thing to that – the word was that the Lilywhites were on the lookout for a keeper.

That one didn’t get seen through to a conclusion so it’s Rudd v Connor Ripley for the gloves as things stand.

At the top end of the pitch, has Callum Robinson been replaced – more so his goals?

Andre Green’s talents will hopefully shine through but he is more a winger than a regular scorer.

So it shines the spotlight on Sean Maguire, Jayden Stockley, Louis Moult and David Nugent. Between them they scored 13 Championship goals last season, albeit Maguire had two spells out injured, Moult was sidelined for a good while, Stockley only arriving in January.

Nugent is feeling his way back to fitness after surgery on his knee and did pull up with some tightness in his calf muscle this week.

The mantra from Neil when the window was open was on the need to bring in some more experience.

In some ways he has, in others not.

Nugent comes with more than 650 appearances under his belt and ticks that box a few times over.

Patrick Bauer has been around for a few years now in England and Portugal, the German a commanding figure.

Green and Tom Bayliss come from the young end of the scale, Green arriving with Championship games under his belt at Aston Villa but not someone you could describe as experienced.

North End’s squad didn’t need major surgery during the window, the core of it to a very decent standard when you think of Ben Davies, Ben Pearson, Alan Browne, Tom Barkhuizen, Brad Potts, Hughes and a fully-fit Billy Bodin.

But with those few gaps I’ve highlighted, is there enough to turn 14th place in May 2019 into something much better next May?

The proof of the pudding will come in the eating, in the results on the pitch.

We can talk, we can 
tweet our views, we can fill column inches on the subject.

It will be on the grass over the coming weeks and months where the strength of the squad is put to the test by a Championship which is unrelenting and eventually gives an accurate reading of where teams are at.