Preston North End are going through a transitional stage right now following the departure of long-serving manager Alex Neil – and Championship safety isn’t yet secure for next season.
Neil left Deepdale last week with the Lilywhites just nine points above the drop zone, and at least a few more wins are needed in order to be safe.
There was a large turnover of the playing squad in January, with eight players arriving and a further eight departing, and a furthe rebuild may be required in the summer with several fringe players out of contract and loanees due to go back to their parent clubs.
Some players meanwhile may already be thinking about getting game time away from Deepdale next season – let’s look at two of those who could end up departing temporarily.
There was a lot of hype when Bayliss arrived at Deepdale in the summer of 2019, with North End paying a seven-figure fee (the specific figures are widely disputed amongst fans) to take the midfielder from Coventry City.
It was only months before that the likes of Everton and Liverpool were being linked with Bayliss so you can see why PNE fans though it was a bit of a coup – unfortunately though the number seven has been a bit of a ghost.
Bayliss played just once last season in the Championship – he was in and out of the matchday squad to start with and then suffered an ankle injury – finally getting onto the pitch for the final 15 minutes of the campaign against Bristol City.
Between the end of November 2020 and the start of this past January, Bayliss started once and came off the bench seven times in the league, but hasn’t been seen since North End’s horror showing in the FA Cup against Wycombe on January 9.
Interim head coach Frankie McAvoy may give Bayliss a new lease of life between now and the end of the season and whoever gets the job on a permanent basis may rate the 21-year-old, but for now the best course of action for next season would be for him to get himself a League One loan.
If you don’t get at least 15/20 on this Preston North End midfielder quiz, can you really call yourself a Lilywhites fan?
To the surprise of many, just one player out of the crop of last season’s second-year scholars was offered a professional deal with North End – that was Ethan Walker.
The Preston-born winger penned his first pro contract back in October 2019, and by the time COVID-19 hit the club didn’t see fit to keep any more youngsters on – which left the likes of Tyrhys Dolan to go and flourish at nearby Blackburn.
Walker may have gone the same way if he hadn’t been sorted out earlier on, and this season he’s been sent out to League Two side Carlisle United in a bid to gain some experience.
After appearing in the first four games of the season, Walker suffered a shoulder injury that was to keep him out for three months, and since returning to fitness he’s not been able to make much of an impact when he’s gotten time on the pitch.
Another loan spell will surely be in the offing for the 18-year-old next season – with League Two or the National League the likely destinations.