Preston new boy Ryan Ledson can help fill the gap left in the Lilywhites squad by the exit of John Welsh, according to Alex Neil.
The 20-year-old midfielder became PNE’s first signing of the summer when he joined from Oxford yesterday for an undisclosed six-figure fee.
North End boss Neil sees him as a younger version of Welsh who is leaving Deepdale this summer after six years.
Neil said: “Ryan had a great upbringing when he was at Everton as a kid and he has come through the England ranks as well.
“He has played 100 league games and he is only 20 years of age and he has played at a good level.
“When we have been watching him and all the bits we have seen of him, he will certainly contribute to what we are trying to do. I think it is a great signing for us.
“Ryan has a bright future ahead of him and I think he is the right type of character we want at the club as well.
“We are losing one of these type of characters in John Welsh and we are replacing him with a younger version who can hopefully go and kick on and have a great career.”
North End had tracked Ledson since the winter but Oxford were unwilling to sell in the last transfer window.
In fact the League One club did not want to even negotiate in January.
Neil and Peter Ridsdale travelled to watch him in Checkatrade Trophy action at Charlton on January 9, in the hope of at least starting talks with U’s officials.
There has since been a change of ownership there, and talks opened before the end of the season.
It has taken a while to get the deal over the line but the paperwork was signed off late yesterday afternoon. Ledson fits the North End buying model of recent years.
He only turns 21 in August and wants to prove himself in the Championship.
Said Ledson: “I am really looking forward to joining.
“I know there was interest in January and there were a few bids made, but now it has finally got over the line and I can’t wait to get started.
“I always saw Oxford as a great opportunity to get games and prove that I was capable of playing higher.
“My time with them was brilliant but I’m now really looking forward to getting back up north and playing for Preston.
“In the last few years I have played in League Two, League One and now I am going to go and play in the Championship.
“That will be tough, but hopefully I will adapt to it.”
U’s manager Karl Robinson said: “Preston have behaved impeccably throughout the process. Once there was interest we told them a price and they matched it.”