It was ‘done deal’ time at Deepdale this week with three Preston players signing new contracts, Billy Bodin, Ethan Walker and Jack Baxter putting pen to paper.
Bodin’s deal led the way as a key member of the first-team squad and time having been ticking on his previous terms – the winger had eight months left on the contract he’d agreed when joining North End in January 2018.
Walker and Baxter are ones for the future, lads who came through the academy and have had a little taste of what the first-team set-up is all about.
Preston boy Walker has the tag of being the youngest player to appear for PNE in a league game at the age of 16 years and 156 days.
This is his first pro deal, probably eight or nine months ahead of when the scholars in their second year often find out whether or not they are going to be taken on.
Baxter, who hails from Chorley, was on the bench a few times last season but without getting on.
The next step for Baxter and Walker is a regular run of first-team football out on loan somewhere, building their experience that way.
It was important to get Bodin sorted out and North End have a talented player in the 27-year-old.
For him to have got into his final year was unusual with PNE.
Standard practice has been to have negotiated something by then or made the decision to move a player on if a contract hadn’t been agreed.
The fact that Bodin had missed all of last season with a ruptured anterior cruicate ligament probably made him an exceptional case.
But since the summer Preston had been trying to reach common ground with him, that finally done. The injury Bodin had meant we’ve only had two spells to see what he is all about.
He came in halfway through the 2017/18 season from Bristol Rovers and showed flashes of talent.
In the last game of that campaign Bodin blotted his copybook with a red card against Burton Albion at Deepdale.
With a good pre-season under his belt in the summer of 2018, Bodin looked ready to impress.
Then injury intervened in the cruellest way, meaning it would be nearly 12 months before he played again.
This year’s pre-season was another impressive one for Bodin – remember that turn and finish in the game against Southampton in July?
He carried that form into the start of the season with a goal against Stoke and then another playing as a striker in the 1-1 draw at Nottingham Forest.
Alex Neil recalled with a smile how the Forest player Bodin had turned in the build-up to his goal ‘had paid to get back in’ such was the nature of the turn.
A calf strain has meant very limited involvement for the last month or so but he was back on the bench for the Blackburn game.
He had also been a sub against Barnsley before the international break.
Bodin is what Neil calls a ‘technician’ in that he can unlock a defence more with trickery and vision rather than outright pace.
The Wales international is no slouch but doesn’t have the speed of Tom Barkhuizen, for example.
You could put him in the same bracket as Josh Harrop perhaps, their strength to come off the wing and inside on to their stronger foot.
What is quite interesting is that Bodin’s new contract, in terms of length, is only a year’s extension.
Maybe a longer stay is the carrot being dangled at the moment – perform well and a new deal is the reward.
Contract renewals and negotiations look like they will keep Peter Ridsdale busy in the coming months.
Ben Pearson, Ben Davies and Alan Browne are all on deals which run until the summer of 2021.
This is the time North End tend to look to extend and those three are key.
Patience might have to be a virtue. You would imagine the trio are towards the top end of the pay scale, hence improved terms would mean pushing to a new level.
There are a number of other Preston players who have until summer 2021 on their contracts.
Daniel Johnson’s form this season has probably seen his name added to the ‘crown jewels’ list together with that of Pearson, Davies and Browne.
Others who have the rest of this season and all of next to go include Sean Maguire, Darnell Fisher, Josh Earl, Louis Moult, Ryan Ledson, Andrew Hughes, Harrop and Paul Huntington.
There are some contracts up at the end of this season, notably Declan Rudd, Paul Gallagher and Tom Clarke.
Goalkeeper Rudd’s name was linked with Rangers this week – a ‘hurry-up’ from his agent perhaps, knowing that pre-contract agreements can be agreed in January?
Gallagher’s age means he gets dealt with on a season-by-season basis, and you would think another contract will come his way if he continues to be the regular he is.
We have not seen Clarke since the win over Stoke in August when the skipper pulled up with a knee injury.
He remains a key figure in the dressing room, maybe that having as much bearing on another deal as time on the pitch does.