Dave Seddon’s PNE Press View: Preston North End playing the long game in transfer window
At the end of last season Alex Neil did suggest that this transfer window might play out in a different way to those of the last few years.
The trend had been for Preston to do their business quite early in the window, whether that be the summer or winter.
There have of course been exceptions to the rule, the late loan business last year for Manchester City pair Brandon Barker and Lukas Nmecha.
In August 2016, Aiden McGeady arrived on loan with the window in its last couple of hours.
Generally, though, North End’s policy has been to strike early and have their targets ‘in the building’ long before deadline.
That approach did have its critics, some suggesting that better targets might have become available had they waited a little longer.
And those who like the yellow ticker and ties on Sky Sports, felt PNE were missing out on the craziness of deadline day.
In this window, North End appear to be playing a long game and with less than a fortnight until time is called on incoming trading in the Championship and Premier League, it looks like the long game could be a very long one.
It is a test of patience and expectation, something a bit different to keep tabs on.
Plenty of clubs have done things this way, leaving it late and sometimes pushing things right to the limit.
But it is a climate change at Deepdale and is causing anxiety among some of the fan base.
Most recognise that this summer was never going to be about multiple signings, more the addition of some experience and a touch more quality. That was the hint from Neil in May, actually more than a hint – several times he repeated the experience line.
Patrick Bauer and David Nugent have come in but to date, that is the total sum of Preston’s dealings.
Both are good signings, Bauer providing some extra competition at the back, with Nugent the old head brought in to help the attack.
No criticism that both were Bosmans, there’s no such thing as a free transfer these days.
Bauer had run down his contract at Charlton and had the freedom to go and choose himself a new club.
Derby released Nugent at the end of his contract as part of a clearing of the decks at Pride Park.
What is clear though, is that North End need more than these two.
And what will make the Preston fans feel that bit more impatient is the sale of Callum Robinson.
The frontman’s move to Sheffield United involved a deal worth in the region of £8m, of which Aston Villa got a slice from a sell-on clause.
No one expects all of what North End were paid by the Blades to be reinvested in transfer fees but there is an expectation that a chunk of it needs to be.
Robinson was a big part of what PNE did, both in terms of goals and creativity.
Kudos goes to Preston for their work with Robinson down the years – identifying him in the first place and then taking Robinson on loan three times before buying him for £170,000.
He now needs replacing which is the challenge North End are currently facing.
If that does take until the latter stages of the window and they get who they want, the wait will be worth it.
However, there will be frowns on some faces while the wait to news goes on.
I’m of the view that North End aren’t far off in terms of their squad of being a strong Championship side.
We could be talking about being no more than two or three players away from that.
The squad is well blessed with numbers, evidence of which has come during the pre-season when Neil has been able to make 11 changes from game to game or even during games.
Now it is about upping the quality a bit, a player or two to really make the difference, turn that 1-1 into a 2-1 or a 0-1 into a 1-1.
There is a cost involved, no one is blind to that, but an outlay could bring rewards.
Last campaign and the one before, North End got within touching distance of the top six – in 2018 they pushed close at the end of the season and finished seventh.
In March this year they climbed to seventh again, then lost their footing and tumbled to 14th.
The next step is finding a way to stride beyond seventh and go further. Although the August 8 deadline is fixed in our minds, we must remember that the start of the season comes first.
We are a week away from the visit to Millwall, with the final dress rehearsal coming against Newcastle.
Whether Neil shows his hand this weekend in terms of a starting XI for next week, I’m not so sure.
I think the core of the team is there, you could name seven or eight of those likely to start at the Den.
Finally, a quick word about North End’s friendly with Accrington Stanley in midweek. What a great venue the County Ground at Leyland was for the game, it really is an impressive place.
The pitch was in excellent condition, the ground just the right size for the game and the welcome from those at the Lancashire FA as warm as the weather.