Alex Neil maintains leaving Ben Pearson out of Preston’s team for the final two games of last season was the correct choice as he sought a fresh mindset for the forthcoming campaign.
The midfielder missed the 3-3 draw against Sheffield Wednesday and the dreadful 3-0 defeat at Brentford as Neil sought to save him from being suspended again.
Pearson missed 13 games last season because of bans, with him shown three red cards and 14 yellows.
It was the trio of reds which proved so costly, stacking up to see him miss 10 matches.
The other three games he missed through suspension were down to the bookings.
One more yellow card last season would have led to a three-game ban which would have carried over to the 2019/20 campaign. PNE already have Ryan Ledson in that boat and they didn’t want Pearson keeping him company in the stands as the season got under way.
Neil said: “If we’d put Ben in for those last two games we might not have won anyway but that’s not really the point.
“We didn’t want Ben out for three games and what made that even more important was Ryan Ledson getting sent off.
“Ryan is missing the first two games of the season and to have both him and Ben out wouldn’t have been good.
“What we didn’t want to do is take the negative after-effects of last season into the new season.
“It was important to rule last season off, put it to bed in our minds so we can focus on trying to improve.”
Pearson’s final game of last season was the 2-0 defeat to Leeds at Deepdale in April.
He was sent off early in the second half, having been last man when fouling Patrick Bamford.
That earned him a ban of three matches, two of those as he had been sent off twice before earlier in the season.
North End could have done with him in the last two games even though the campaign was by then a dead rubber in terms of making the play-offs.
They let a 3-1 lead slip in the Wednesday clash and were poor throughout at Brentford.
Neil admitted that leaving Pearson out could well have played its part in the disappointing final-day show.
Said Neil: “When you start making conscious decisions for the team, the team get a sense where they think, ‘He isn’t playing his best players when they are available so we’re obviously now starting to think about building for next season’.
“To be fair at that stage, that probably was the case.”
Pearson was the bad boy of the Championship with his stack of red and yellow cards.
Neil has stressed the need for the 24-year-old to clean up his act in the season ahead and be available for more games.