Preston North End’s engine room strengthened by Ali McCann’s return from injury says boss

Frankie McAvoy thinks Ali McCann’s all-round play will be a ‘great asset’ to Preston North End’s midfield.

By Dave Seddon
Tuesday, 2nd November 2021, 8:00 am

The Northern Ireland international has shown PNE fans his potential in the two games he has played since coming back a spell out with an ankle injury.

He was one of the bright sparks against Liverpool and then drove North End on in Saturday’s win over Luton.

Lilywhites head coach McAvoy views McCann as a versatile midfielder, with the ability to play in the deeper ‘six’ role or push higher up the pitch.

Preston North End midfielder Ali McCann

McAvoy said: “I think Ali gives you a bit of everything.

“On Saturday he won us the penalty driving forward into the box, while he did the same type of movement last week against Liverpool to set up a great chance. He’s a young player with a big future, he’s got fantastic attributes, a real hunger and desire to succeed.

“Ali is a level-headed guy too, he has fitted into this group very well because we have a lot of good guys here.

“He’s going to be a great asset here and I’m delighted that we signed him.”

McCann was signed from St Johnstone for £1.2m on transfer deadline day at the end of August.

He was eased into his first experience of football south of the border with a series of sub appearances in the league, together with a start in the Carabao Cup against Cheltenham.

The 21-year-old’s first league start saw him come off second best in a block tackle with QPR’s Andre Gray and he left the field after just 25 minutes of that clash.

In the win against Luton on Saturday, he had Ben Whiteman and Alan Browne for company in midfield.

PNE’s next assignment is at league leaders Bournemouth tomorrow night, the Cherries unbeaten in the Championship this season.

McAvoy acknowledges that McCann has come into the area of PNE’s squad with the greatest depth.

Hence the competition for midfield places is fierce.

Said McAvoy: “Ali can do the six role, sniffing out the danger and putting fires out, there’s a knack to doing that.

“Signing him has enhanced that middle of the park area which is a big strength of ours.

“There were a few guys on Saturday who were a bit unfortunate not to be in the side.

“Ryan Ledson has done extremely well for us, Brad Potts as well, Daniel Johnson has been magnificent.

“We’ve loaned out Tom Bayliss to Wigan, who is starting to get games now.

“There are younger boys such as Adam O’Reilly. It’s probably the hardest place to go and force your way in.

“What you want is some strong competition.”