Dave Seddon’s PNE pressview: Preston have had not had much luck with injuries this season
Injuries are an occupational hazard of top level contact sport, however Preston North End do seem to have had more than their fair share of players sat in the Springfields treatment room this season.
Could I suggest Bupa as shirt sponsor the next time around – other private health care providers are available I hasten to add.
Just why PNE have had such a glut of injuries in the last eight months or so is a topic which has puzzled and frustrated in equal measure.
Five players already know they won’t play again in the regular season and we’ve not even reached Easter.
Brandon Barker, Andrew Hughes, Tom Barkhuizen, Josh Harrop and Billy Bodin won’t pull on the boots until next season – Bodin hasn’t been able to wear his Puma’s all campaign.
At regular intervals over the course of the campaign, others have fallen victim to strains, bumps and bruises to keep PNE physio Matt Jackson a busy man.
Looking through North End’s squad, you could count well into double figures the players who had missed a chunk of football.
We are not talking a week here or there, we are into weeks or months territory.
Callum Robinson, Sean Maguire, Ben Davies, Alan Browne are among those to have spells of varying lengths on the sidelines.
Maguire pulling-up with a hamstring injury in the final pre-season friendly game of the summer at Oldham set the trend.
Three days later, Bodin was to rupture his cruciate ligament during a passing drill in training.
Harrop suffered the same damage to his cruciate at the end of September.
At one stage there was talk of Daniel Johnson being out for the full season when he hurt his thigh.
It didn’t turn out to be as bad as first feared, somewhat bucking the trend.
Robinson scored his 10th goal of the season in the 4-1 win over Blackburn but had little time to enjoy it before a hamstring tendon ripped later in the game.
Connor Ripley turned his ankle playing in a bounce game within a few weeks of signing for Preston.
Yes, it’s been one of those seasons when the medical Gods haven’t looked on the Lilywhites with any favour.
There isn’t a one size fits all explanation for all the injuries.
Hamstrings feature quite prominently but they have snapped or strained in a few different ways.
Some players have pulled up with no one near them, others have got a nudge just as they were stretching for a ball, contact which has forced them to over-extend.
Harrop did his cruciate in a very different way to how Bodin was hurt.
The midfielder twisted and got tackled at the same time in September’s game against West Bromwich.
Whereas for Bodin, it was a bad twist as he planted his foot in training.
Theories doing the rounds have included the players being worked too hard, yet the workloads are well monitored.
Stamina fitness is clearly very good, PNE right up there in the Championship in terms of scoring in the final 15 minutes of matches.
In between games, there is plenty of time given over to rest and recovery.
Alex Neil had done his homework prior to the fans’ forum on Monday night.
When a question came from the audience about the injuries, Neil was ready for it and was able to categorise them into contact and non-contact injuries.
Robinson and Maguire’s hamstring issues were laid at the door of overuse when on international duty with the Republic of Ireland.
Neil admitted the team play at a high intensity and, in his words, ‘run heavy and work heavy’ to achieve their aims.
Do you sacrifice such an approach to save legs and risk being less effective?
That style of play suits them obviously, last year’s seventh place finish and the current challenge for the top six, evidence of that.
The injuries are clearly a frustration to Neil.
There was frustration in his voice when he spoke at his Thursday morning press conference.
Neil doesn’t want it to be a case of what might have been this season, had injuries not struck hard.
“When we have had the majority of our players fit and available, our results have reflected what we are capable of,” said Neil.
“But when you lose two, three, four, five, even six players, it becomes a lot more difficult.”
Neil was to add: “I was hoping the escapades with injuries were behind us, but at the moment they have raised their head again.”
I touched on Monday’s fans’ forum earlier and it was a decent evening, far calmer than last September’s version was.
Little progress being made with the Ingol training ground was disappointing, so too the work on the fan zone coming to a halt in the old club shop.
Could there not be some kind of temporary fix for a fan zone area?
Just wondering out loud, a marquee or covered area near to Sir Tom’s statue or by the Town End where you could get a pint and listen to some music, with an area for younger fans to have a kick around and beat the keeper.