Alex Neil has explained why Jordan Storey has been on the fringes of the Preston squad this season as he stands by to face Hull City tomorrow.
The central defender enjoyed a run of 23 successive starts during the second half of the last campaign.
Storey, 22, has been on meagre rations in 2019/20, in terms of first-team action.
When he came off the bench to replace Ben Davies at Derby on Saturday, it was only his second Championship appearance of the season.
His three starts all came in the League Cup against Bradford, Hull – who they face tomorrow evening at the KCOM Stadium – and Manchester City.
If Davies fails to recover from the ankle injury he picked up at Pride Park, Storey is a natural fit to replace him.
North End manager Neil says Storey is still learning his trade at a relatively early stage of his career and should not be disheartened by a shortage of action recently.
Neil said: “When Jordan first came into the team I thought he was excellent – for the first 10 or 12 games he performed really well.
“What happens to a lot of young players – it did to Ben Davies in his first season when I was here – is that they hit a bit of a lull.
“There comes a time when they need taking out of the team for a breather.
“The problem is that after such a good first 10 to 12 games when they have been a key part of the side, you don’t want to take them out.
“Jordan probably needed to come out of the team for a little bit towards the end of last season but I left him in.
“That was one of the key reasons why I went and got Patrick Bauer in the summer.
“I thought if I’m going to have to rely on Jordan for the full 46 games, that is going to be hard for him. What Jordan will be able to do is play 12 to 15 games on the bounce really well.
“But to ask a boy of his age in a position down the spine of the team to play every week, would be asking too much.
“I think you would have to search far and wide for a young lad who can churn out 46 games at this level.”
Storey was signed from Exeter City in June 2018 and steadily worked his way into the team last season.
PNE have been monitoring Davies’ ankle injury since the weekend.
There will be a late call on his availability before the squad head to Hull.
Said Neil: “We’ll assess Ben again today, see how he feels and go from there.
“Jordan did well to be fair to him when he came on at Derby. He played in a bounce game last week so he’s had minutes recently.
“We’ll wait and see how Ben is first before making any decision.”