Dave Seddon’s PNE pressview: New Preston signings often require patience from fans

Patience is something which seems to be in short supply in all walks of life, society these days very much about the here-and-now.

Saturday, 27th April 2019, 8:30 am
Preston North End's Andrew Hughes

Football is no different, with teams written off after a couple of poor results and managers rubbished weeks after being proclaimed as the new messiah.

If your latest signing does not hit the ground running, it doesn’t take long for the word ‘flop’ to appear.

New signings can often be slow burners rather than coming fast out of the blocks.

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Often that has been the case at Preston North End as the emphasis had shifted to developing younger players or making signings from the lower divisions.

It’s potential being put in the shopping basket rather than anything approaching the finished article.

In recent years, who has come in and torn it up straight away?

You could argue that in 2014/15 when Preston were promoted, Daniel Johnson was near to that.

Johnson had scored eight goals within two months of arriving.

Saying that, North End were a different kettle of fish to what they are now.

Four years ago they were the bigger fish in the smaller pond, bringing in players to get them over the line.

Jermaine Beckford tore it up in the end that season but had a lengthy settling-in spell before beginning to fire on all cylinders.

PNE are now nearing the end of their fourth season in the Championship, their policy to build a squad and develop players in the hope that they can one day have a taste of top-flight football.

There is undoubtedly some real talent in the squad and going back to my earlier point about patience, some players have benefited from having some shown to them.

Ben Davies is one of the best examples, having had more patience than anyone shown in him.

His chance came early at PNE as a teenager, perhaps a little too early in hindsight.

Five loans later and with a change of manager, Davies is developing into a cultured left-footed centre-back who is sure to attract attention from higher up.

Tom Barkhuizen came in from Morecambe and after a gentle introduction, had that goal burst in the second half of 2017/18.

Under Neil’s stewardship, his wing play has developed considerably.

His absence over the last few weeks because of knee surgery, has been keenly felt I would argue.

Andrew Hughes didn’t look a world-beater when he came in last summer from Peterborough.

Hughes was replacing Greg Cunningham – no easy task – or at least competing for the void left by him.

Early season he looked a steady Eddie, no more.

But from the turn of the year, you could see him grow in confidence and flourish on the left side of the back four.

Like Barkhuizen, Hughes’ absence has left a hole which is proving difficult to fill.

Josh Earl replaced him and had a hard time, for now it is Darnell Fisher who has been switched over to the left to play out of position.

Hopefully fans can afford some patience to Earl as he tries to rediscover some of the form when he first broke into the team in the early weeks of last season.

North End were patient with Callum Robinson, with him coming on loan three times before making the move here permanent.

He wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea to start with, raw and hit-and-miss in aspects of his play.

Robinson is now being talked about as a player who could well attract offers in the region of £10m-£12m.

Alan Browne has likewise been allowed to develop into something similar.

Ben Pearson didn’t pull up too many trees to start with after signing.

He was a regular through that first half season here, then couldn’t get a kick for the first two months of the 2106/17 campaign.

Temper issues aside, what a key figure Pearson is now at Deepdale.

Compared to where he was this time last year, Louis Moult is looking a lot more comfortable despite having had injury issues this season.

Again, it’s been down to a bit of patience, not judging him on a slow start.

We’ve seen more and more of Lukas Nmecha as this season has gone by.

Steadily he has shaken off some of that rawness, with him getting more streetwise.

Nmecha’s performances of the last couple of months will certainly lead to North End asking the question of Manchester City about a loan for next season.

Whether that happens or not, we will find out during the summer.

Neil giving him a run of games on the wing has not done him any harm at all.

It got him back in the side after a couple of months on the bench and his first game in that wider role saw the 20-year-old set-up Johnson’s winner at Blackburn.

Last week against Ipswich Nmecha got his chance up the middle and doubled his Preston goals tally with two second-half goals.

If North End could get him back on another loan, I think Nmecha would turn into a key player.

No doubt there will be some other options for him but he seems to like being at PNE, so who knows?