Dave Seddon’s PNE Press View: David Nugent’s back...at long last!

Somewhere out there is a Preston North End supporter kicking themselves at missing out on the chance of making themselves a wheelbarrow full of cash.

Saturday, 20th July 2019, 10:00 am
Updated Saturday, 20th July 2019, 11:00 am
David Nugent on his return to Deepdale this week

The person in question was the one who a decade or so ago, posted on a fans’ forum that ‘David Nugent is at the Tickled Trout and will sign for Preston on Friday’.

It was only a rumour but boy, has it stood the test of time.

Just think if the hotel car park stalker had copyrighted that phrase, he or she would be a millionaire by now.

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How many times, how many transfer windows did we hear the Nugent rumour crop up?

Since the striker left in July 2007, there have been 24 transfer windows.

I’d hazard a guess that in more than half of those the Nugent story did the rounds.

Well finally it happened this week, Nugent making his return to Deepdale as a North End player.

The man sold for £6m plus add-ons came back on a Bosman on Wednesday.

He is older, wiser, has slowed down but it is PNE’s hope that his experience can be invaluable around what is otherwise a young squad.

As any signing is, Nugent’s return is a gamble and those who frown at it will point at his record last season of only two goals for Derby County.

For the second half of the campaign he mainly warmed the bench.

Nugent started Derby’s 0-0 draw against PNE at Deepdale on February 1 and wasn’t back in the starting XI until May’s play-off semi-final first leg against Leeds.

A knee injury sustained that day and from which he is still recovering, meant that was his final appearance for the Rams.

If anyone is worth North End taking a gamble on in this manner, it is Nugent.

He is right up there with the most popular Preston players of recent years and the reaction on social media to him putting pen to paper was pretty telling.

As long as others follow him into the arrivals lounge at Deepdale before teatime on August 8, then there won’t be too many grumbles.

If there is a concern for fans, it will be him living up to his PNE legacy.

As a young pup, he found the net regularly for North End in the two-and-a-half seasons he spent here in his first spell.

He won an England cap in that time, he scored a goal for England – from two inches out – he was the talisman.

This very publication printed a picture of his boot when he broke a metatarsal in 2006 as PNE homed in on the play-offs.

Readers were urged to lay their hands on it and hope for a quick return – he was back in seven weeks and scored that cracker in the play-offs at Leeds.

The concern will be that 12 years on, North End are not getting that version of David Nugent back.

You could compare it to yearning for the girlfriend you had in your younger carefree days when you would party the night away in town.

The reality of bumping into one another again many years down the line doing the shopping in Asda might not produce the same spark.

To highlight the length of time Nugent has been away, the minimum age you would have to be now to remember him last playing in a Preston shirt is mid-teens.

That of course won’t stop the younger fans knowing about him from the time he has spent elsewhere – my 10-year-old son was quite excited when I told him the news.

I’m sure all North End fans are willing Nugent to spark and play his part in what can hopefully be a great season.

He knows his way around the Championship, knows what a promotion push is all about – and a successful one at that.

Nugent has played in the Premier League, learned a few tricks from them.

It might be that his arrival can push others – that might be just as important as what he does on the pitch.

If his presence was to help Sean Maguire get back to the levels he showed at stages in his first season here, all the better.

Nugent could be the man to make an impact from the bench, give Alex Neil that sort of option.

There will be a wait for his fitness to return, with some patience needed.

For starters, Nugent only officially becomes a Preston player on August 1.

So it is likely to be a few games into the season before he becomes available.

North End fans do like their returning players.

Nugent is certainly not alone in having two spells at Deepdale. Clearly some can ‘check out but never leave’.

Alex Bruce, Roy Tunks, Graham Alexander, Tony Ellis, Mike Elwiss, Gareth Ainsworth, Lee Ashcroft, Andy McAteer and John Thomas are just a few who have done it.

Paul Gallagher came on loan in 2007, returned in 2013 and has stayed ever since.

Jordan Hugill’s name is currently doing the rounds as being another who could join that particular group of players.

At this stage, I would think that is unlikely, despite some of the stories pumped out over the last few days – someone was busy feeding ‘news’ out in an bid to stimulate interest.