Forwards ready to return to boost Preston North End boss Alex Neil

Billy Bodin in pre-season action for Preston last summer
Billy Bodin in pre-season action for Preston last summer

Alex Neil will be delighted to have long-term injured duo Billy Bodin and Josh Harrop available for the start of next season.

Bodin did not kick a ball in the 2018/19 campaign after rupturing a cruciate ligament on the eve of the season.

It was the same injury which Harrop suffered in September, bringing his season to an end after only 11 games.

The craft which both players can give to the team was a big loss to North End boss Neil as the season went on.

Neil views Bodin as a ‘technician’ type wideman rather than a speedy winger.

Often he would reference the Wales international when he spoke of the need to have different options to unpick an opposition defence which had dropped deep.

To date, North End fans have only had half a season to look at Bodin in action.

He joined in January 2018 from Bristol Rovers for £500,000

Bodin made 16 starts and three substitute appearances, scoring once in a 3-0 away win at Nottingham Forest.

Last summer he had looked sharp in pre-season, scoring a fine goal against West Ham in a friendly. However, 
injury struck just five days 
before the start of the 
season.

While Neil used Harrop a lot from the bench in his first season at PNE, he still sees him as a big asset.

The former Manchester United player will give Neil another option in the No.10 role or slightly wider upon his return.

Both Harrop and Bodin were back in training before the end of the season but Neil was never going to take a risk and play them.

He took the view that getting them back in the swing of things ahead of the return to pre-season was a better approach.

“Both lads have been out a long time – a whole season in Billy’s case,” said Neil.

“Josh was injured early in the season so he’s missed a lot of football too.

“It was good to get them back training towards the end of the season, that gives them a base to build on.”

Bodin’s return will provide more competition on the wing in the squad.

In the current North End squad, Neil’s options to play out wide are Bodin, Callum Robinson, Tom Barkhuizen and Josh Ginnelly.

With Lukas Nmecha and Brandon Barker having gone back to Manchester City, there might be room for another winger.