Preston North End's key contract issues coming up this summer

Whoever has the ownership of Preston North End in the coming weeks will have calls to make on the destiny of a number of players whose contracts run out in the summer.

By Dave Seddon
Sunday, 27th March 2022, 12:30 pm

The current spell of due diligence being done by Chris Kirchner’s team prevents decisions on contracts and transfers being made by the current ownership and regime.

Due diligence won’t last too much longer, with the ball either coming back into the court of the PNE management and hierarchy or passing to Kirchner should his takeover go through.

There are some stand-out names on the list of those now going into the final three months of their current deals.

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Preston North End's Scott Sinclair warming-up ahead of the game against Cardiff City

Will it be a case of all or at least the vast majority being let go, or is there a future at Deepdale for some of the out-of-contract group?

Here we look at some of those facing uncertainty over their futures.

Scott Sinclair:

The former Celtic man has only had a bit-part role at North End this season.

Preston North End winger Tom Barkhuizen in action against Swansea in January

In the Championship Sinclair has started six games and come off the bench 16 times.

Just twice has Ryan Lowe started the 33-year-old and neither went particularly according to plan.

Sinclair started up front against Sheffield United at Deepdale in January but a red card for Andrew Hughes saw Sinclair sacrificed before half-time.

Lowe played him from the start against Reading at left wing-back before giving him a more attacking role as he changed shape to chase the game.

Preston North End defender Joe Rafferty during the game against Swansea

His time at North End has not gone as he would have liked, with 50 league starts and 27 appearances as a substitute.

Sinclair was the top scorer last season with nine Championship goals, including that 40-yard beauty at Bournemouth, but it’s hardly been sizzling stuff.

Having turned 33 this week, his age is going to be a factor in any decision.

There was much excitement when Sinclair signed from Celtic in January 2020, however he’s not lived up to the star billing predicted, partly by the fact North End have rarely played a system which suits him.

Preston North End goalkeeper Connor Ripley warming up before the game at Luton

Tom Barkhuizen:

The winger could not have chosen a worse season to be hit by injury and illness, with his contract up this summer.

A picture of consistency in terms of appearances since signing from Morecambe in November 2016, it’s been a campaign of frustration for Barkhuizen.

Covid hit him early in the season, then an Antonee Robinson tackle hit him in the 1-1 draw with Fulham in November, causing a 70% tear of an ankle ligament.

He was just three games into his return from the damaged ankle when a calf muscle popped in the first half of January’s 1-0 defeat to Swansea, with us not having seen the 28-year-old since.

Barkhuizen will hope to return after the international break but time isn’t exactly on his side with only eight games of the season remaining.

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Joe Rafferty:

The left-back is coming to the end of the three-and-a-half year contract he signed when joining North End from Rochdale in January 2019.

Rafferty had made 70 appearances in league and cup which isn’t a great amount but not a disaster either.

Ryan Lowe holds him in high regard, liking his versatility on the bench and work-rate in training. However, if room needs to be found in the squad and on the budget, can PNE afford to keep Rafferty on?

He’s played six times this season, three games in the Carabao Cup – one of them against Liverpool where Rafferty was in the academy – and three in the league.

Only one of the Championship appearances was from the start, that at Swansea in January when he played at left wing-back.

Rafferty will want to play regularly and it might be that he’ll need to seek pastures new to do that.

Connor Ripley:

Referencing Connor Ripley is as much a nod to the whole goalkeeping department than just the 29-year-old himself.

Ripley hasn’t kicked a ball for North End since pre-season but in recent months worked his way back to the position of being the main cover for Daniel Iversen.

At the start of the campaign he was effectively fourth choice keeper behind Iversen, Declan Rudd and Mathew Hudson, and in October joined Salford City on a rolling emergency loan deal – playing eight games.

With Rudd having not been in the squad since early November after three knee operations, Ripley leapfrogged Hudson as back-up to Iversen after the arrival of Ryan Lowe in December.

He’s been on the bench in every game since January, bar the FA Cup defeat at Cardiff because he was cup-tied having played for Salford in the competition.

Ripley and Hudson are both out of contract in the summer, with Hudson currently on loan at Bamber Bridge.

Add into the equation Rudd’s injury and Iversen being borrowed from Leicester, there could well be a full quota of keepers who need replacing during the summer.

Paul Huntington:

Is this the Cumbrian Cannavaro’s last stand at Deepdale?

Huntington has worn the Preston shirt with pride and passion since the summer of 2012, joining the PNE 300 Club along the way.

He’s yet to make a first-team appearance this season, twice making delayed entries into the 25-man squad and making the bench a couple of times.

If this current contract is to be his last at North End, let’s hope they do him the honour of a final run-out at Deepdale so that the faithful can show their appreciation.

Huntington has sweated blood and tears, he’s lost a tooth for the Preston cause. What a warrior!