Dave Seddon’s PNE Pressview: Who will get Preston North End’s No.1 jersey this season?
An area of Preston’s squad which has attracted plenty of debate over the summer has been the goalkeeping department.
Chris Maxwell’s move to Hibernian at the start of the week brought to an end his three years at Deepdale – he will be out of contract here when the season-long loan deal finishes.
That still leaves PNE with four senior keepers on the books and had the link with Manchester City’s Arijanet Muric turned into something more concrete, it would be back to five.
As it is, 20-year-old Muric is off to Nottingham Forest on loan rather than coming to Deepdale.
So going into the weekend of Preston’s first friendly of the summer, Declan Rudd, Connor Ripley, Mat Hudson and Michael Crowe are the four Deepdale glovemen.
If the interest in Muric went beyond an initial chat with City during a debrief about Lukas Nmecha and Brandon Barker, that would suggest the keeping role is one which is or was under review.
Whether Alex Neil sticks with what he has got or stays on the look out, will indeed be interesting to follow.
I wrote earlier this week how Neil has not completely settled on a No.1 choice in his two years at Deepdale.
Maxwell and Rudd got roughly half a season each in 2017/18.
Neil had inherited both of them when taking the job in July 2017 but had worked with Rudd at Norwich City previously.
It was predominantly Rudd last season, save for an eight-game run for Maxwell between late September and early November, one ended by his red card at Ipswich.
Then for the final two games of the campaign we got a first look at Ripley, his chance to push for the jersey having been held-up by an ankle ligament injury.
As things stand, it will be between those two when it comes to starting the season at Millwall on August 3.
The early friendlies won’t tell us an awful lot, in fact we might see all four over the coming days at Bamber Bridge and Cork City.
Rudd will push to hold on to the gloves, Ripley will be pushing him.
After several loan spells in his career, Ripley chose to cut ties with Middlesbrough in January in order to put down roots and attempt to establish himself at a club.
He won’t have come to North End with the intention of being a long-term second choice you wouldn’t have thought.
Crowe came in as a third choice keeper last summer to allow Hudson to go on loan to Bury and get games.
Hudson in the end only got four appearances in the Checkatrade Trophy and came back to Deepdale in January.
The plan then was to send Crowe to League of Ireland side Waterford United to get games on loan.
When Ripley got injured, those plans were abandoned and Crowe stayed to provide bench cover for Rudd.
Hudson is an interesting one, a keeper who has been in and around the first-team picture for quite a while but without featuring much.
His debut came back in December 2015 at Leeds when Jordan Pickford was sent-off – the red card got overturned on appeal as it was.
Hudson got an hour or so on the pitch, beaten when Alan Browne headed into his own net when defending a corner.
The 20-year-old – he turns 21 later this month – has been on the bench plenty of times but has not yet had the chance to follow-up his debut at Elland Road.
He needs games to help him develop but North End also have to bear in mind that carrying three keepers in the squad is sensible.
In the Football League, loans have to run window to window – no longer are they a quick fix option between.
The shutdown of the EFL’s emergency loan rule under pressure from FIFA, remains a baffling decision.
In a month or so when the transfer window shuts and the season is underway, we will have more clarity on the keeper’s position at PNE.
It is one to keep an eye on though, one to watch as we get further into the friendly match programme.
Enough of keepers, let’s move on to kits, in particular the Preston away strip for the season ahead.
It was a surprise U-turn by North End to scrap the red kit just a week or so before it was due to go on sale and go with a yellow replacement.
Some fans not liking the red kit was the reason given for the change but then again, when has a kit ever had universal approval?
Personally, I quite liked the red kit, it was a nice change from the yellow and green alternatives of the last couple of seasons.
Red wasn’t exactly going against tradition, it being a colour worn as an away strip a number of times down the years – North End wore red the day they clinched the Third Division title against Hartlepool in 1996.
Ricky Heppolette had a red PNE shirt on the day he sent a diving header into the Fulham net to turn the Third Division title race on its head in 1971.
I understand the liking for yellow and the ‘yellows’ chant which has long been a feature of away games – my first proper away day in 1987 at Wrexham, Preston wore white and the fans chanted yellows throughout!