Pre-season will be crucial for Josh Harrop and Billy Bodin as they return from long-term injury lay-offs, says Preston manager Alex Neil.
The pair played 45 minutes of Saturday’s 2-0 win against Bamber Bridge, their first slice of action after months on the sidelines.
Both players needed surgery last season after damaging knee ligaments.
Bodin was absent all last season after suffering his injury five days before the start of the campaign.
He ruptured his cruciate ligament, an injury Harrop then suffered at the end of September.
Neil told the Lancashire Post: “We know how much the two lads have done to get back to this position.
“It’s been great to have them back and they will be key players for us.
“They will get stronger with the more minutes they get on the pitch.
“This pre-season is going to be crucial for them, as it is for all of the lads.
“However much training they do, it will be minutes in the games which get them to where they want to be.”
Bodin and Harrop will add options to PNE going forward this season. In his first half season at North End, left- footed Bodin played on the right wing, that allowing him to cut inside to good effect.
Harrop has operated in a variety of roles – as a No.10, on both wings and further back in midfield.
At Bamber Bridge, Harrop played on the left wing.
Neil has been pleased with how the opening stages of pre-season training have gone.
The current training camp at Fota Island will see the next phase of the build-up.
“It’s been good so far, the lads have looked really strong,” said Neil.
“They’ve done the hard running and things which have to be done at this stage.
“Over the next few weeks we will get plenty of game time into them.
“Last season we didn’t start well in general, although we did win the opening game.
“We dropped off after that and had to catch up, so this time we want to hit the ground running and stay on form.”
North End are in Ireland until Friday, with them back on these shores to play AFC Fylde on Saturday.
On July 16, they face Chorley at Victory Park, before playing their only home friendly against Southampton a week on Saturday.
Neil’s men face Bolton at Leyland on July 23, and finish off at Fleetwood on July 26.