Adam Lord's Preston North End pressview: As others grab headlines Alan Browne is PNE's Mr Dependable
Some players naturally hog the headlines.
At the moment, that man for Preston North End is of course Callum Robinson.
The versatile forward already has eight goals this season for a side that has struggled for large parts of the campaign and has made his mark with the Republic of Ireland on the international stage.
Lukas Nmecha is increasingly catching the eye while Ben Pearson has made it clear what a big player he is for Alex Neil when not suspended.
But one man keeps working away and can be relied on week in, week out to deliver the goods.
Alan Browne is without doubt the most dependable player that Neil has at his disposal.
Already asked to play in a variety of positions, from right back to just off the front, the Irishman has certainly carried on from the performances than won him the Player of the Year award last season.
As well as his versatility and endeavour, there is no shortage of quality from a player who just keeps popping up with important goals.
With 10 goals in the calendar year, the 23-year-old has more than any other Championship midfielder in 2018.
That’s some stat considering the talent on display in the second tier.
Browne has scored all kinds of goals as well. We’ve had headers, penalties and no shortage of sweet strikes from distance.
The latest came against Brentford in the 4-3 win on Wednesday night, the No.8 showing some real attacking instincts to score the opening goal.
When Robinson’s shot deflected across the area it was Browne who reacted quickest to get enough of a touch on the ball to help it beyond on-rushing Bees ‘keeper Daniel Bentley and in.
Earlier in the week, his influence on the team was made clear when in the absence of Tom Clarke and Paul Huntington, Neil handed him the captain’s armband for the game against Hull.
It was a first in his career but may just be a sight that North End fans will get used to in the months and who knows, years to come.
A modest guy, Browne admitted post-match that is was a huge honour to lead the team out at the KCOM Stadium.
While it wasn’t a vintage performance he tried to lead by example, and his is one that any player trying to make their way at Deepdale would do well to follow.
That’s not just on the field, where his industry and energy is unrivalled, but also off it.
Following the 3-0 defeat at Leeds a little over five weeks ago, Browne spoke honestly and from the heart to the press about PNE’s predicament towards the bottom of the table.
It was clear he cared and that is the kind of thing fans appreciate from the footballers they pay good money to watch and who in this day and age seem at times in a different world to those who put their hands in their pockets to come through the turnstiles every Saturday.
Talking of frank words, Louis Moult didn’t shy away from getting a few things off his chest when talking to the media on Monday.
The striker has come in for a fair bit of flak since his January move from Motherwell as he has adapted to life in the Championship.
While some may have shied away from the criticism that has come their way on social media and to a lesser extent on the terraces, after two key goals off the bench, Moult met it head on and with some level of defiance.
Fair play to him as well. Yes, these guys are well paid for the position that they find themselves in but it can’t be easy reading some of the things that are written in the heat of the moment and condensed to 280 characters.
Moult seems to have taken it in the best possible way, helping it stoke the fire as he bids to make his mark at Deepdale.
He’s certainly going the right way about that on the field but there are a couple of big problems standing in his way, not that he will be afraid of trying to overcome them.
Firstly, as the 26-year-old admitted himself, it is clear that more often that not Neil’s style of play is not one that immediately lends itself to a penalty box predator.
It is absolutely no coincidence that his two decisive interventions have come when the Lilywhites have been chasing the game at Aston Villa and Hull with more balls going into the box than is the norm for PNE.
The other issue Moult has is the form of Nmecha.
The Manchester City loanee had an off-day at Hull but was back to his best against Brentford in midweek.
The teenager led the line expertly with one piece of skill in the second half bringing an ovation from an appreciative Deepdale crowd.
Now he just needs what every striker wants, a first goal to get himself really going.
But as things stand his excellent all-around play is more than enough to make up for that.
It is now clear to see why his capture on a season-long loan was seen as such a coup for PNE.
All three players - Browne, Moult and Nmecha – are evidence of what all players need but increasingly don’t get.
That’s time. Time to find their feet at a new club, in unusual surrounds and at a different level.
Nmecha was written off just a few weeks ago and is now the toast of the Town End.
Moult has shown where his strengths lie and what an impact he can make.
And Browne has blossomed into someone who simply now cannot be dropped having first arrived in England as a fresh-faced 18-year-old.
Given PNE’s modest resources in the transfer market they more often than not have to turn to players who are not the finished article.
That’s certainly worth thinking about when the next batch of new faces come through the door.