Dave Seddon's PNE Press View: Fisher's Darn good!
Hands were clapping and heads were being nodded in the good city of Preston on Tuesday teatime when news of Darnell Fisher signing a new contract was released to the world.
Wind the clock back 10 months to when Fisher put pen to paper on his move to PNE from Rotherham and the reaction was distinctly lukewarm.
A lesson learned here is to resist a knee-jerk reaction to new arrivals, give them the time and opportunity to show what they are about.
Fisher had his doubters when he booked in on a free transfer, signing on the day North End had their team photograph taken.
A free transfer from a club just relegated was perhaps not one to raise the levels of expectation with the season just around the corner. At the time the clamour was for a centre-half. Instead, a right-back came in.
Fresh in the memory was Fisher having been given a tough time by Aiden McGeady when North End played at Rotherham United in November 2016.
Whatever our view of McGeady is now, it has to be remembered that Fisher was not alone in finding him hot to handle in 2016/17.
Maybe less notice was taken of Fisher having a far better game in the return match at Deepdale at the end of that season.
The 2017/18 version of Fisher performed extremely well in a Preston shirt.
Dare I say he is the best out-and-out right-back who North End have had for a good while.
No wonder he got his own song from the fans, the star man playing on the right – sung to the tune of David Bowie’s Starman for those who like their music.
The trend is for full-backs to be all-rounders down their side of the pitch, strong defensively but with the legs to get forward.
Fisher is a defender first and foremost, a ‘warrior’ to quote his boss Alex Neil.
Not too much got past him down Preston’s right, which contributed to a very decent defensive record.
He’s happy to go forward too, although that side of his game needs some polish.
There were promising signs at times, the overlap run and cross which set up Callum Robinson for PNE’s first goal at Queen Park Rangers in April springing to mind – there were others too.
Something else which needs a bit of attention is his record with referees.
We tend to focus on Ben Pearson when it comes to collecting yellow cards but Fisher finished with 14 just like his team-mate.
Fisher does have a knack of finding himself on the wrong side of opposition fans – Christmas cards from Sheffield United and Reading will be in short supply.
That is down to his liking to use up a few extra seconds when taking a throw-in.
Juggling could perhaps be a future profession when he hangs up the boots!
One of the highlights of the season was him getting the bird off the Reading fans at the Madejski Stadium.
Having witnessed a tackle or two, they questioned his northern credentials.
Little did they realise that the man in the yellow No.14 shirt was a native of Reading, his home a five-minute walk from the Madejski!
Fisher landing a new deal is a prime example of how North End work behind the scenes.
Initial contracts are often ‘prove yourself’ types, with the incentive to earn a better one.
Think how many times we have seen Alan Browne sign a new deal here, so too Ben Davies.
Since joining in January 2016, I think Ben Pearson has signed twice on the dotted line of a new contract.
Some fans have asked is some of the fee received for Jordan Hugill going on the new deals which will follow that of Fisher’s?
I’m sure it will help but it must be remembered that the contract renewals are an ongoing process, they’ve not just been happening since January.
Expect to see more follow the example of Fisher and sign new deals.
You need the security of a good, solid squad, to which new signings can be added on a window-by-window basis.
One aspect of the Fisher deal did make me chuckle, that of how transfer rumours start.
An Aston Villa blogging site had suggested Fisher as one of the best performing right-backs in the division and maybe someone Villa might want a look at should they see the need to bolster their options.
Nothing wrong with that, his performances were there for all to see.
In turn, that was picked up by a gossip column which in turn ended up on another website as ‘Villa ready to make Fisher swoop’.
It is fair to say by that time, the ink was already dry on the new contract and it was just a case of when the news was released.
Finally, it might have been a blessing that Sean Maguire pulled out of the Republic of Ireland squad on Thursday with a slight hamstring issue.
While the striker will be desperate to play for his country, what he needs at the moment is a good rest so that he can hit the ground running next season.
It is a well-deserved break after playing, training and working in the gym pretty much non-stop for more than 18 months.