Preston North End boss Alex Neil expecting Tom Bayliss to push for midfield berth before the season's over
Alex Neil is backing midfielder Tom Bayliss to be pushing for a place in the Preston team before the end of the season.
An ankle ligament injury sustained in a bounce game has sidelined the 20-year-old for the next few weeks.
North End boss Neil felt Bayliss was just starting to push for a first-team place when he got the injury.
He had played him in the FA Cup against Norwich, that just his fourth appearance since last August’s big-money move from Coventry.
Neil said: “I thought in the second half of the season we would see a lot of him, that he would start forcing himself on the team.
“I had started to see signs from him, that is why I’m so frustrated for Tom. I could see him start to mature and start to become better.
“I’m hoping we will get him in before the end of the season and certainly at the start of next season, I expect him to really push to get in.”
Bayliss was hurt playing against Accrington Stanley at Springfields a fortnight ago.
Neil has said the absence would be, ‘Weeks rather than days’.
“Tom was running with the ball and the lad tackled him from behind,” said Neil.
“He’s planted his foot, he’s rolled his ankle and the lad fell on top of him.
“That has tilted it over the edge, so it’s not great.”
While the outlay on Bayliss last summer was a big one, in Neil’s mind he was always a player for the future.
It has been a diet of cup football for him at North End, with three appearances in the League Cup and in the FA Cup clash with Norwich.
Said Neil: “When we signed Tom I did say it was an exciting signing but he’s a young kid who needs to learn his trade.
“I would say our midfield is the hardest berth in the team to get into when we have quality players like Ben Pearson, Paul Gallagher, Alan Browne and Daniel Johnson.
“Josh Harrop has stepped up to the plate. You’ve got young Ryan Ledson wanting to play, Brad Potts...all those players are fighting for that central area.
“Tom was looking good, he was training and playing with a purpose. He was in a good frame of mind.”
Meanwhile, Gentry Day has been arranged for the trip to Brentford on April 18.
North End’s fan-led day of remembrance and celebration started in 2005 and has run annually since 2008.
It is the third time that Griffin Park has been chosen for Gentry Day, with it held there in 2013 and 2014.
This will be the last time PNE visit there in the league, with the Bees moving to a new ground next season.
Tickets are set to go on sale in March, with North End receiving an allocation of 1,640.