Dave seddon's Pressview: Preston striker Louis Moult will be desperate to play against hometown club
The first of those is upon us, with the Potters visiting Deepdale competitively for the first time since February 2008.
Moult is Stoke born and was on the books of his home-town club for 10 years, appearing in three first-team games as a substitute – one of them in the Premier League.
After being released by them and eventually drifting into non-league, Moult got a part-time job coaching at Stoke’s academy.
Hence PNE’s clash with them being of significance on Saturday teatime.
It might be that Moult has to watch from the bench to start with.
The first fortnight of the season has been something of an in-and-out affair.
He started on the opening day against QPR and was an unused sub at Swansea last week.
On Tuesday night Moult was back in the team and scored against Morecambe in the Carabao Cup.
Sean Maguire’s injury meant that when the season kicked-off, Moult was the only available out-and-out striker of any experience in the squad.
A reinforcement has since arrived in the shape of Lukas Nmecha, the Manchester City teenager getting the nod to lead the attack last week.
North End could yet add add another new face to the forward line before the end of the loan window.
At his pre-match press conference on Thursday, Alex Neil talked about areas of priority when it came to talk of further additions.
Asked in particular about the right-back area in terms of Calum Woods’ injury, the answer Neil gave suggested his focus for now was on a different area of the pitch.
A targetman striker was being eyed for much of the summer and that search could well be revisited before August 31.
Going back to Moult, it would be fair comment that the first few months of his time with PNE didn’t quite go to plan.
His arrival in January from Motherwell got the plaudits on both sides of the border – the view in Scotland being that Preston had got themselves quite a player.
Down here, there was the excitement of bagging a striker who had been scoring regularly in the Scottish top flight.
It didn’t really happen for Moult in that second-half of the season – he had to wait until Good Friday for his first North End goal.
The next one came on the final day of the campaign against Burton Albion.
You would hope that the summer has been the reset button for Moult.
He got the No.9 shirt and had a decent pre-season, the injury to Maguire giving him a clear run at the opening game of the season.
The general consensus was that he did well what he was asked to do against QPR.
It was about him taking the ball in and acting as a foil for Josh Harrop and Alan Browne.
What that approach didn’t really allow was him to get into the box and get on the end of crosses.
That is his strength, what got him the bulk of his goals in Scotland.
In the long run, can North End play to his strengths?
Moult could probably count himself a bit unlucky to be on the bench against Swansea and certainly to be left there all afternoon.
Neil went for the pace of Nmecha up front and after a quiet first half in which he didn’t get into the game – in line with most of the North End team – we saw plenty to be enthused about.
The 4-2-3-1 favoured by Neil, a system which carried PNE up to seventh place last term, obviously only allows for the one central striker.
That support line behind can carry a striker, albeit playing a wider position as Maguire did at the start of last season.
At a push Nmecha could play wide but it wouldn’t suit Moult.
At the end of the day it is about having those different options up there.
Neil has built strength and depth in others areas of the pitch and having those different options in attack should be a nice problem for him to have.
The squad’s depth was on display against Morecambe, 11 changes made and the game safely negotiated with a 3-1 win.
When Neil made it clear ahead of the game that mass changes were on the cards, there was a degree of anxiety on the part of some fans who recalled a similar approach backfiring at Accrington 12 months earlier.
But much water has gone under the bridge since, the squad now having much more quality.
It was a decent side which played at Accrington, Paul Gallagher, Jordan Hugill and Callum Robinson three of the starters that night.
Others on show included Liam Grimshaw, Marnick Vermijl, Andy Boyle, Kevin O’Connor, a debuting Stephy Mavididi.
Daryl Horgan was another to start against Accrington and he exited last week to join Hibernian.
In the end it didn’t quite work out for the Irishman here, with him not fitting Neil’s style the same way he had done Simon Grayson’s.
Horgan is a very decent fella and I wish him well.