Preston North End’s well-known attraction to Irish players has gone to a new level this year with four League of Ireland players joining the Championship club.
Following on from Dundalk duo Andy Boyle and Daryl Horgan’s switch to Deepdale at the beginning of 2017, Sean Maguire and Kevin O’Connor will later this month swap Cork City for the Lancashire club.
The key difference in this pair’s arrival, however, is that they would have signed for the club under the expectation that the man who was instrumental in bringing them to Preston, Simon Grayson, would still be at the club.
With Grayson having been offered the top job at Sunderland, it now means that two of the Leesiders’ standout players this year will have to work their way into the first team under new boss Alex Neil.
Speaking to Newstalk’s Off The Ball this weekend, the 36-year-old coach was quick to downplay the impact such a change will have, as he says it would not have solely been down to the outgoing manager as to who the club sign.
“In terms of players coming into a club, generally it’s not just one person’s decision so it’s the club that signed them not necessarily Simon (Grayson). Obviously Simon would have played a big part in that but the club wanted these players.”
Neil goes on to discuss how the City pair, who play their final game for the Rebel Army against AEK Larnaca on Thursday, can only become better players from here.
“The fact is they’re good young players. They’ve got a lot of potential and the best part of their careers are ahead of them. So, as a coach coming into that – I don’t think you can really ask for anymore.
“They are young, they’re impressionable and you can teach them everything you know and get hopefully the best out of them.”
While it will be far from easy to break into a competitive Preston side, these comments should encourage the Cork City pair ahead of their move to Deepdale, albeit not under ideal circumstances.
To their advantage, however, is that they will be coming straight into pre-season with six months of intense first team action under their belts.
Rob Lyons, Pundit Arena