Dave Seddon’s pressview: North End do the deals on eve of season
A few days ago it looked like this week would be a case of no deal for Preston North End.
By Friday lunchtime though, Tom Bayliss and Andre Green were signed-up and part of the PNE squad heading to London for the season’s opener at Millwall.
The two arrivals certainly gave North End supporters a lift on the eve of the season, the mood having been a touch flat following a quiet summer transfer window.
More importantly rather than just being mood-lifters, Bayliss and Green are there to try and lift PNE higher up the table after last season’s frankly disappointing 14th place finish.
Although neither carry that vastly experienced tag which Alex Neil had often spoken about, both new boys have the potential to greatly enrich the squad.
Green has big boots to fill in that he is seen as someone to play in the role vacated by Callum Robinson – a wide striker or a narrow winger however you want to look at it.
He has Championship experience, 38 appearances at this level for parent club Aston Villa – one of those being as a second-half sub in May’s play-off final against Derby.
In the semi-final first leg against West Bromwich, Green came on as a sub, while he was a starter in the second leg.
So while Green might not have the hundreds of games under his belt as say David Nugent has, he is not exactly at the novice stage.
Throw in two games in the Premier League in Villa’s last stay there, plus time in League One at Portsmouth on loan in the first-half of last season, and his eyes should be open to what it is all about.
Bayliss’ talents were such to persuade North End to part with a decent wedge of cash – if not a club record, not far off it.
The midfielder fits more into the buying pattern we have seen from Preston in the last three or four years.
Bayliss is aged 20 and has impressed at Coventry in League One and before that in League Two.
Age wise, he fits into the category with Jordan Storey and Ryan Ledson.
Background wise in terms of the level of where he has been playing, think along the lines of Andrew Hughes and Jayden Stockley.
The Championship will be a step-up for Bayliss from what he’s been used to but those who know him and have seen him play on a regular basis think it is a stride he can make comfortably.
He is the technician type in midfield if you are to put a tag around his neck, playing in the role Paul Gallagher and Daniel Johnson like to.
Bayliss isn’t a No.10 type in the manner of Brad Potts or Alan Browne, he wants to get the ball deeper and spot passes from there.
He seems a popular lad at Coventry, their supporters sad to see him go.
You could liken it to how Preston fans felt when they waved Robinson off to the higher level last month.
Bayliss and Green made it four summer signings for North End, with Nugent and Patrick Bauer having come in earlier.
So is the squad stronger or weaker now than it was at the end of last season?
Speaking on Wednesday ahead of these two signings, Alex Neil was strong in his opinion that Preston were weaker than in May.
You couldn’t disagree with that in any shape or form, Robinson having left a gaping hole while Neil was to point out Manchester City pair Lukas Nmecha and Brandon Barker were no longer in the building.
Defensively, I see them as being stronger, Bauer on the evidence of pre-season a very powerful centre-half who adds height.
Who wears the green jersey behind the defence still seems an issue on the basis that PNE have enquired more than once about taking keepers on loan.
Is that an itch which will be scratched ahead of the close of the window on Thursday teamtime?
Further forward, might there be more reinforcing to be together with Green and Nugent?
It might be that creating a bit of space in the squad will be needed for that to happen.
To answer the question properly of whether the Preston squad is stronger this season than how it was at the finish of 2018/19, we must wait until Thursday when trading ceases.
For now, it is stronger in some areas, not so others.
Whether Bayliss or Green are involved at Millwall, we will only know when the team sheet becomes public knowledge at The Den.
Will Neil chuck them both straight in after one training session or will he hold them back a bit longer?
I don’t think the team which faced Newcastle last week was far off what Neil intends to play at Millwall.
Tom Clarke might have done enough to hold on to the right-back slot for this one, bearing in mind Darnell Fisher is only just back after a hernia surgery.
Gallagher alongside Ben Pearson seems likely and it will be interesting whether the signing of Bayliss gets Wigan back on the phone asking about Johnson after their bid to take him on loan was knocked back.
We could see Billy Bodin back in competitive action on the wing for the first time in more than a year.
Happy new season, let’s hope it can be a good one!