Preston North End left-back Josh Earl nearing return to fitness with loan club Bolton Wanderers

Josh Earl in pre-season action for Preston before his loan move to Bolton
Josh Earl in pre-season action for Preston before his loan move to Bolton

Preston North End left-back Josh Earl is nearing a return to action with loan club Bolton Wanderers after injury.

The 20-year-old endured some rotten luck less than 15 minutes into his Bolton debut at Wycombe in August.

Josh Earl keeps the ball in play in Preston's pre-season friendly at Chorley in July

Josh Earl keeps the ball in play in Preston's pre-season friendly at Chorley in July

He suffered ankle ligament damage making a challenge and had to have surgery.

To rub salt into Earl’s wounds, the player who he had made the tackle on was then flagged offside – but only after the damage had been done.

North End loaned Earl out to get more first-team football under his belt.

Last season he had fallen behind Andrew Hughes in the pecking order at left-back.

Rather than having him sat on the bench this campaign, PNE were keen for Earl to get games on loan and kick on.

The loan deal with Bolton was only rubber-stamped by the EFL a few hours before kick-off on the season’s opening day due to the financial issues at Wanderers at the time.

Then he found himself limping off after 14 minutes at Adams Park.

Earl is back training with the Bolton first-team squad but is having to play catch-up in terms of sharpness.

Wanderers now have Keith Hill as manager and he likes the look of what Earl can offer.

Hill had referenced Earl being able to play not just at left-back but as a centre-half too.

Earl’s loan at Bolton runs until early January.

After coming through PNE’s academy, Earl got his first-team chance in August 2017 as a replacement for the injured Greg Cunningham.

He had a three-month run in the team before suffering an injury himself.

On his return, he made eight more appearances that season.

Last term, Earl started 12 times in the league and twice in the League Cup, with him in the main playing understudy to Hughes.

Ironically soon after Earl joined Bolton and picked up his injury, Hughes damaged his hamstring and has only featured in three games.

Earl is one of six Preston players currently out on loan.

Goalkeeper Chris Maxwell is at Hibernian for the season and is currently first-choice there.

Graham Burke is on a 12-month loan at Shamrock Rovers until July next year.

Also playing in Ireland is Kevin O’Connor who returned to Cork City.

First-year pro Jack Armer was loaned to Lancaster City in the summer, while striker Connor Simpson is at Accrington for the rest of the campaign.

Simpson played for Stanley against PNE in a training ground game last Thursday.