Dave Seddon's PNE pressview: A tough week for North End

Preston North End have had better weeks than this one and it will be good to see the back of it.

Saturday, 22nd September 2018, 10:00 am
Alan Browne

Hopefully it can be ended on a winning note against Sheffield United, or at least something can be brought back from Bramall Lane.

Defeats against Reading and Leeds – I could throw a music festival pun in here but I won’t – sandwiched the fans’ forum at Deepdale which I would term ‘lively’.

On the pitch North End are struggling eight games in, while off it there is a discord between some supporters and regime.

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Football wise, Preston did themselves no favours losing to a Reading side who came to Lancashire propping up the Championship.

Missed early chances were punished by a Royals’ opener.

For the Lilywhites to go on, equalise twice and still lose was careless to say the least.

At Elland Road, they came up against a very decent Leeds side it has to be said.

To go into that without two midfielder ‘tacklers’ and Alan Browne only just back from a calf strain, was always going to be a test.

It was a test which North End met in the opening few minutes but once Leeds did their playing out from the back a little higher than the edge of the box, it allowed them to bypass the press.

After that it became a hard night and 3-0 could have been more.

You hope North End can draw a line under it and with the squad slowly getting some depth back, maybe the form can pick up.

Ben Pearson still has the Sheffield United to sit out but his return next week is a key one, following that of Ryan Ledson and Browne.

Just a quick mention for Browne at this juncture, what an honest and very thoughtful interview he gave the local media after the Leeds game – an approach he also took on social media the next day.

A skipper in the making perhaps?

When results are poor, that focuses minds on other aspects of the club.

At the forum, some fans were able to express their feelings about what they see is a lack of funding in Alex Neil’s playing squad in comparison to others in the division.

While PNE have always been in the lower reaches of the division budget wise, they might have slipped a bit further of late.

If you think Barnsley and Burton had lower budgets last season and have been replaced by Blackburn and Wigan, that is a couple of rungs slipped.

Budget does not always equate to league position, North End showing that last season by finishing seventh.

But it would be naive to think it doesn’t help.

Huddersfield probably bucked the trend of late in terms of getting out of the Championship and into the Premier League.

Usually though, it will take a decent wedge of cash to make the difference.

Of course such money needs to be spent sensibly and not chucked at anyone for the sake of spending.

The frustration we saw at the forum was, as I heard it, a feeling that an opportunity has been missed to build on last season’s achievements.

When a team which last season finished one place outside the play-offs, is now 23rd, it is easy to see how that emotion is fuelled.

Add to that the issue of the targetman which did not materialise.

The frustration is shared within the club, Alex Neil saying just that at the forum.

For fans, that forms part of the missed opportunity emotion.

The season is still young with eight Championship games played to date – this is not the time to write it off by any means.

But the form does need a swift turnaround, otherwise a long season is ahead.

At the centre of the debate about PNE’s spending is club owner Trevor Hemmings.

A question asked at the forum, and a valid one, was about the future ownership of the club.

The answer from the top table was that eventually a ‘successor’ would be needed.

It will be interesting to see where that path leads and in what timescale.

If a new owner was to move things up another notch in terms of the amount of money going in, it would take a decent amount.

A figure of £7.3m has been asked for by the club from Hemmings for this season.

As the current budget is at the lower end of the division, what amount moves you up the table in financial terms?

Would £12m-£15m do it, or higher?

One topic which took its time to be raised at the forum was the training ground, but eventually it was.

The answers on the night weren’t exactly crystal clear, particularly in relation to the financing if it.

But in an interview later in the week, North End chief executive John Kay reaffirmed the commitment to deliver it.

I see it as so important that the Ingol project is seen to a successful conclusion.

Club and supporters came together in a strong bond a year or so ago to get the planning permission passed.

There are still issues to resolve on the planning side but hopefully next year the visible work will be started.