Dave Seddon's PNE pressview: Sean Maguire is due a change of fortune

A question for Preston North End boss Alex Neil going forward is how do you solve a problem like Maguire?

Saturday, 24th November 2018, 8:00 am
Updated Saturday, 24th November 2018, 11:04 am
Republic of Ireland's Sean Maguire (left) and Northern Ireland's Jamal Lewis battle for the ball during the International Friendly at The Aviva Stadium, Dublin

Lilywhites striker Sean Maguire is on the sidelines again nursing a hamstring problem and won’t be back until January.

That is not the longest of absences when you bear in mind we are in the last week of November.

But at the moment it must feel like a lifetime to Maguire as he looks to overcome this latest setback.

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Neil and the North End fans will also be forgiven for looking at the calender and wishing the Irishman the most speediest of recoveries in the circumstances.

Maguire has certainly had some rotten luck with his hamstrings in the past 13 months or so.

I’ve seen the phrase ‘sick note’ used by one or two folk on social media – I’ll make it perfectly clear now that is a description I detest.

It implies a deliberate act, that someone is slacking.

That is not something you can accuse Maguire of, in fact it could be that working too hard is an issue here.

A fully fit Maguire is a huge asset to Preston, as he has proved in spells since his arrival from Cork City.

In his first few weeks in the PNE team, he scored four goals playing in the main from a wide position.

Remember his goal last October against Brentford, weaving his way through the Bees half before slotting home.

On his return from last winter’s lay-off, Maguire found the net five times in four games – three of those goals after coming off the bench.

There were signs of late that he was regaining full sharpness after his delayed start to the season.

I rated his performance at Bristol City a fortnight ago highly, his movement and willingness to pull wide causing the Robins all kinds of problems.

Hence it was a watch from behind your hand moment when Maguire limped off in the Republic of Ireland’s friendly against Northern Ireland the other week.

For whatever reason, a long run of games in a North End shirt has evaded him.

Last season started well enough, with him playing in 12 of the first 13 games – he was an unused substitute in the other.

It was in the 2-2 draw with Fulham at Craven Cottage that his hamstring problems started.

After getting himself on the scoresheet, deflecting in a Tom Barkhuizen shot, he went off after half an hour.

That injury was actually a contact one, with a challenge from behind forcing his leg to hyper-extending.

Maguire only missed one game, returning a fortnight ago and scoring the goal against Brentford which I referenced.

But it transpired that he played that match and the one which followed against Aston Villa with undetected damage.

When it was detected, it was damage which needed surgery to repair.

He was missing until March and what an impact Maguire made on his return, netting twice on Gentry Day at Bolton.

At the end of the season, playing for the Republic of Ireland in a testimonial against Celtic, the frontman felt another twinge.

With the campaign over, it was an injury which did not impinge on Preston.

But after a pre-season in which he looked so sharp, Maguire pulled-up in the last friendly at Oldham.

He got back to first-team action against Wigan at the start of October and had got six games under his belt.

Then came this latest problem, one Neil doesn’t expect the striker back from until the New Year.

Workload, training and body management will be closely looked at as Maguire makes his way back to full fitness.

Although not blaming the Republic of Ireland for his current injury, Neil spoke of the international break as being a factor in all this.

In the early months of the season there are three such breaks.

If a player is carrying an injury, the fortnight break in action offers the chance to get some rest and freshen up ready for the next batch of matches.

However, that is not a luxury afforded to someone away with his country.

Maguire is proud to play for the Republic of Ireland and it is indeed a feather in his cap.

But if he could turn back the clock, the chance to have a breather and take time away from the training pitch must look tempting.

North End couldn’t stop the Irish call for Maguire the other week.

As Neil pointed out in his press conference this week, Maguire had played at Bristol City for 84 minutes and for the full 90 against Ipswich seven days before.

There were no grounds on which to pull him out, from the outside looking in he was six games injury-free.

That is in the past now, his focus now is on getting fit for a January return.

The lad deserves some luck when he comes back, deserves a run of matches when he can rid his mind of hamstring injury fears and play with a freedom.

What he doesn’t need is his recent injury record to be used as a stick to beat him with. An on-song Maguire is there to be cherished.