Dave Seddon’s Preston North End Press View: Let’s welcome Patrick Bauer to Deepdale

Patrick Bauer signed for Preston this week (photo courtesy of PNE)
Patrick Bauer signed for Preston this week (photo courtesy of PNE)

Let’s whisper this quietly but the arrival of Patrick Bauer at Preston this week was met without too much of the bickering between fans which tends to attach itself to football transfers.

Bauer’s Bosman signing got an almost universal nod of approval from the North End faithful in that the ‘Big German’ was just what was needed.

Charlton fans were sorry to see him leave, the guy clearly a popular figure at The Valley – it went deeper than scoring a last-minute winner at Wembley to send them to the Championship.

There were a few barbed comments from the capital questioning why Preston was his destination – we are used to that aren’t we? – but none particularly targeted at him personally.

The modern way when a footballer moves clubs is for a re-write of history on social media, the, ‘He’s not actually that good’ type of comment.

That was absent here and hopefully Bauer can turn out to be as effective in a Preston shirt as he was for Charlton.

Alex Neil was in some ways acting from a position of strength when he made the move for Bauer, and in other ways not.

The two centre-halves who formed an unbroken partnership from January 19 through to May 5, carried off three Player of the Year awards between them.

Ben Davies was honoured as Player of the Year by both fans and his team-mates.

Alongside him, Jordan Storey capped a very good first season as a North Ender by being voted Young Player of the Year.

Backed up by the very loyal and very capable Paul Huntington and Tom Clarke, there is a good depth there.

Neil wants to push on though, improve on that 14th-place finish. If that means bringing in another body in a position, he is willing to do that.

Bauer caught Neil’s eye playing for Charlton and showed up brighter on the radar as his contract ticked towards its conclusion.

He will push Storey and Davies, bring that bit more experience which perhaps North End lacked towards the end of last season.

In hindsight, perhaps as the results dipped Storey could have done with a rest.

There was the option of Huntington which wasn’t used but a knee injury for Clarke meant he was not available from February 23 onwards.

Clarke’s leadership was missed in that final run-in, the ability to organise and to issue a rollicking if needed.

They are skills which not every player has and can be overlooked.

It might be that Bauer’s arrival allows Clarke to be used more as right-back cover.

Huntington will want to fight for a place too after half a season on the bench.

More than once he’s been out of picture at North End but managed to bounce back to good effect.

Bauer’s career shows he is not one to let the grass grow under his feet in one place.

After not holding down a regular place at Stuttgart in his native Germany, he upped sticks and moved to Maritimo – the Portuguese side on the island of Madeira.

Three seasons there were followed with the four at Charlton, which came to an end this week.

He’s heading to Preston now with his wife and baby daughter, a ‘new chapter’ as he described it, one he is very much looking forward to.

North End have had a big German before in the shape of Thorsten Stuckmann, as popular a bloke as you could care to meet.

Different position and a different time but a decent comparison to make. Bauer will venture back to London on the opening day of the season after Preston were given a trip to Millwall to set the ball rolling on the 2019/20 campaign.

It won’t be easy at The Den, far from it, but a repeat of February’s 3-1 win would be extremely welcome.

That victory came in a spell when North End were flying form-wise, their three goals that day coming in the opening 25 minutes.

In the 1980s, Millwall were first-day opponents two seasons running.

Tommy Docherty’s brief reign as manager in 1981 started off against the Lions at their old ground and the 2-1 defeat set the tone for what was to follow.

A year on, North End won 3-2 on the opening afternoon of the 1982/83 season, Steve Elliott’s hat-trick delivering the points.

Thursday was ‘fixtures release day’ with greetings bounced around on social media like it was Christmas.

To start and finish with an away game isn’t the best, and North End are on their travels on Boxing Day too.

There is something about Yorkshire on December 26 which the fixture computer likes coupling PNE with.

Huddersfield away in 2015, Barnsley in 2017 and now Leeds in 2019.

As starts to the season go, the first month potentially has promise.

Millwall and Wigan both finished below Preston last season, while Swansea have a new boss in Steve Cooper to bed in.

Stoke were a mixed bag last time, while Sheffield Wednesday are currently under a ‘soft’ transfer embargo which may or may not affect them going into the season.

Then it is Nottingham Forest at the end of August, a venue North End won at last season.