Preston North End last night moved to sign goalkeeper Jordan Pickford from Sunderland ahead of their return to the Championship.
The 21-year-old has joined on a season-long loan and will make his debut in today’s final pre-season friendly against Bury at Gigg Lane.
North End had hoped to bring Sam Johnstone back to Deepdale on loan from Manchester United.
However, with that looking increasingly unlikely to happen before the start of the season, the Lilwyhites changed course and moved for the highly-rated Pickford.
The terms of the loan deal were finalised with Sunderland yesterday, with the player arriving at Deepdale at teatime to sign.
Pickford said: “It’s a great chance for me to play in the Championship.
“I’ve played in the Conference, League Two and League One and this is the next step up for me, which is great.”
The England Under-20s international came through Sunderland’s academy and has been loaned out a few times to gain first-team experience.
Last season, he played 33 league games for Bradford before being recalled to the Stadium of Light.
Preston boss Simon Grayson had been forced to play a game of patience with the goalkeeper position.
He left it as long as possible to try and land Johnstone for a second loan following his successful five-month spell last season.
United have yet to resolve their goalkeeping issues, with doubts remaining over the futures of David de Gea and Victor Valdes, while Anders Lindegaard has an injury.
Johnstone went on United’s tour to the USA and played in all four of their games against Club America, San Jose Earthquakes, Barcelona and PSG.
Although he is unlikely to be in first-team contention at Old Trafford this season, United are not yet in a position to loan him out.
North End’s pre-season has seen Jamie Jones in possession of the gloves, backed up by youngster Steven James.
Waiting much longer for Johnstone would have been a real gamble, with the season kicking off next Sunday.
Grayson had compiled a list of alternatives, which contained keepers both attached to clubs and also free agents. Pickford caught his eye, with Sunderland rating him highly and seeing him as a future No.1.
Said Grayson: “As soon as we got wind that Jordan was available then we decided to sign him.
“We knew we needed to make the decision very quickly because he’s a good, young, up and coming goalkeeper who has some good experience.
“He did very well at Bradford City last year and we feel he is going to fit well into the squad and have a really good season with us.”
Grayson has further incoming business to do, with a right-back likely to arrive early next week.