Preston North End manager on the 'clarity' needed over contracts and the plans for the January transfer window
Preston North End manager Alex Neil says clarity is needed quickly over the futures of the 'big four' players who are in the final stages of their Deepdale contracts.
Ben Pearson, Ben Davies, Alan Browne and Daniel Johnson are now in the last six months of their current deals.
New contracts have been offered to the quartet but there has been no indication from any of them yet that they will sign.
If they decide their futures are elsewhere, the January transfer window is the last opportunity for North End to sell and get a fee.
Were any of them to leave in January, they would naturally need replacing.
Addressing the situation at his pre-match press conference done via Zoom on Thursday morning, Neil said: "We need clarity, we are getting to the stage where this is going to affect this transfer window for us.
"We need to know what we are going to need to try and replace, whether it be for now or whether it be for the summer.
"We need a decision based on what the next step is going to be."
Separate to possibly having to replace some or all of the four, Neil thinks the North End squad needs freshening-up in January.
A centre-half is high priority with Patrick Bauer ruled out for the season after Achilles tendon surgery, while a striker and winger are positions PNE are looking at.
Neil said: "I think we need to be busy - we have signed two players in the last two transfer windows.
"To freshen up the squad a bit we need the fresh injection of a couple of new faces, let's hope we get stuff done.
"It is crucial for that to happen because you need competition for places for a start.
"We need to have guys coming in who other lads will look at and think 'I have got competition for my place now', that is healthy.
"We wouldn't bring people in solely to replace others.
"With every signing they come in, they get assessed, either produce what they can and deserve to be in the team or they don't do enough and don't deserve to be in the team.
"It really is as simple as that."
North End's two incoming deals in the last 12 months were Scott Sinclair from Celtic in January and then Emil Riis who was signed from Danish clubs Randers FC for £1.2m at the beginning of October.
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