Dave Seddon's PNE pressview; Billy Bodin's misfortune is a blow for North End

Billy Bodin's summer, we can speculate, must have included a stroll under a ladder and him forgetting to salute passing magpies.

Saturday, 4th August 2018, 9:00 am
Preston North End's Billy Bodin

That can only explain the bad luck which crossed his path on Tuesday morning and delayed the start of his season until February at the earliest.

The Preston winger will spend the next six months recovering from a damaged anterior cruciate ligament.

Bodin suffered the injury in the most unfortunate of circumstances.

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It is one thing coming off second best in a tackle and suffering a long-term injury.

But for him to have been hurt just by an unfortunate twist is terrible unlucky to say the least.

In a nutshell Bodin went to trap a ball and turned to pass it.

He twisted one way, his standing leg stayed where it was and the result was the torn ligament.

The most innocuous of things can sometimes cause the most damage.

There is no good time to get an injury of any sort, but for it to happen on the eve of a new season is dreadful.

Bodin was finding his feet it seems at Deepdale after a £500,000 January switch from Bristol Rovers.

He had shown flashes of what he was all about in those first few months, for example scoring in the 3-0 win at Nottingham Forest.

His performance in April’s defeat at Reading had been very good, with him having hugged the touchline and given the Royals defence a tough time.

There was stuff which needed to be cut from his game though, a red card on the final day of last season for deliberate handball and then simulation, for example.

Bodin was going to miss this season’s opener against QPR through suspension as a consequence.

North End boss Alex Neil reasoned often in the second half of last term that it would take his January buys time to settle in.

Louis Moult was the one he primarily focused on in that respect, Bodin arguably settling more comfortably.

But Neil felt there was a lot more from the winger to come and pre-season backed that thinking up.

Neil reported that Bodin looked sharp in training and then there was his goal against West Ham a fortnight ago at Deepdale.

The manner in which he allowed a gem of a cross field pass from Andrew Hughes to drop over his shoulder and then bringing it down was a fine piece of play.

He then still had to get the better of Hammers defender Declan Rice and goalkeeper Adrian – doing so with some neat footwork.

Bodin’s injury came on the back of Sean Maguire’s pulled hamstring.

To lose one player less than a week before the new season is bad enough, to lose two is very unlucky.

Maguire had been set to carry a lot of responsibility on his shoulders this term.

Having scored 10 goals last season, one in which he missed four months of, much was expected of the Irish striker with a summer’s rest and a pre-season in him.

We will have to wait now until the autumn for Maguire to get that chance.

It is now up to others to take their chance, to soften the blow of the losses of Maguire and Bodin.

Out wide, alternatives are there for Bodin in the shape of Tom Barkhuizen, Callum Robinson and Daryl Horgan.

An educated guess is that Barkhuizen and Robinson are Neil’s first-choice pair of wingers and would have been even if Bodin was still available.

The injuries might have taken a coat of shine off the build-up to the start of the season but it is time to put that to one side and focus on the QPR game.

It is a big campaign for North End, as it would be for any club who the previous season had finished so close to the top six.

Bar the successive 11th place finishes of 2016 and 2017, there has been a year-on-year improvement in their position since 2013.

If the trend continued this season, an improvement of even one place would see Preston in the play-offs.

Easy to say, much harder to do.

There must be no sense of entitlement based of what was achieved last season, it has to be earned.

It is an interesting league in 2018/19, a mixed bag.

Stoke look like being the big spenders, attempting an instant return to the Premier League in the same manner Newcastle did so in 2016/17.

Are Nottingham Forest trying to be this campaign’s version of Wolves?

Whether the quality of their signings can match that of Wolves, I’m not sure.

West Bromwich Albion and Swansea are something of an unknown quantity at this level, having to adapt to relegation after lengthy stays in the top flight.

Their outlays have not matched that of Stoke who went down with them.

Leeds have spent a few quid and in Barry Douglas, have perhaps picked-up one of the bargain buys of the summer.

It seems some clubs are manoeuvring on a sticky wicket financially.

Birmingham were under a transfer embargo and can now only conduct deals with limits attached, while QPR will be under an embargo in January as punishment for breaking FFP rules.