Dave Seddon's Preston North End Press View: Reinforcements needed at Deepdale
Just lately Alex Neil might have felt more at home had he worn a stethoscope around his neck when meeting the local media.
Press conferences have been like episodes of M*A*S*H, Holby City and Casualty rolled into one.
There has been a weekly theme almost of Neil having to deliver news of an injury to a player – and fairly serious ones at that.
Callum Robinson, Daniel Johnson and Sean Maguire have been the names on the medical rollcall over the last fortnight.
A couple of months ago it was Josh Harrop, while on the eve of the season Neil found himself delivering grim news of Billy Bodin and Maguire.
The irritated hamstring which kept Ben Davies out of the Middlesbrough game this week was like a chipped toenail in comparison to the longer-term problems of some of his team-mates.
PNE don’t seem to ‘do’ straightforward injuries or indeed ones in isolation.
At one stage last year they had eight defenders sat on the sidelines with a variety of aliments ranging from sore knees to a grotty appendix.
This season injuries have struck further up the pitch in the attacking areas.
It has been a pretty mixed bag of problems, hamstrings, thighs and anterior cruciate ligaments.
A reasonable question which has been asked out loud by fans is whether the injuries are due to workload and what is done in training?
But there doesn’t seem to be an exact pattern to be able to point the finger at one thing or another.
Perhaps it is more a case of a team which plays at a high tempo just suffering some bad luck.
Others are getting through training and games without a problem and it must be hoped that things stay that way over the next month before the transfer window provides the chance to bolster the numbers.
All of the injuries have been a body blow to North End, but none more so than that suffered by Robinson.
Here was a player having a super season, the time of his life in terms of his football career to date.
Between September 1 and last Saturday Robinson had got on the scoresheet 10 times, playing either from the left wing or up front.
Ten goals in 14 games in that period at Championship level is some going.
Statistics will also show Robinson has had the third highest number of shots on target in the division and also the eighth highest amount of successful dribbles.
So for the 23-year-old to suffer a damaged hamstring tendon and be ruled out for three months or longer, is cruel to say the least.
Robinson has rarely been injured before, just the odd knock or strain which might have kept him sidelined for a week or two.
A thoroughly likeable lad, it had taken Robinson quite a while to convince some fans of his worth.
Indeed, his manager Neil was one of those who had to stay patient during the early months of last season as he waited for Robinson to grasp what he wanted.
It was around this time last year that he started to click into gear and he hasn’t looked back.
Yet it was still sometimes the case of Robinson choosing to wear gloves in games which attracted more attention than his play.
However, his ability had been the focus this season and he has been North End’s most consistent performer by some margin this term.
If there is any justice, he will return fully mended and in a position to pick up the form of recent months in a reasonable timescale.
Robinson’s wing play was covered well in midweek by Brandon Barker, although the Manchester City loanee missed an early one-on-one in terms of finding the net.
This is Barker’s chance to shine, that left-hand side almost exclusively his for the time being.
The recent injuries you would think, might have led to a reassessment of what is needed transfer-wise in the New Year.
With Robinson, Harrop, Johnson and Bodin missing from the support line behind the striker, there is a vacancy or two there.
It might be that Johnson is back around the time the window opens, the same for Maguire up front.
But there must be caution with their returns, Maguire especially with his history of hamstring issues. While the goals have been flying in this season, you get the impression Neil would still like to have the option of a targetman in the squad.
It will be how they cover Robinson’s absence which will be interesting.
The way he has played this season, there is almost two players in one there.
He had a successful stint spearheading the attack then resumed the wide attacking role we’d seen him in of late.
Neil cannot be left light after January 31, no matter in which direction the season is heading.
He’ll need reinforcements whether to help North End push up into mid-table or higher, or put some distance between themselves and the lower reaches.
December will be a key month – should a steady flow of points come their way they will be in reasonable shape for 2019 and ready for some reinforcements to arrive.