Preston North End manager Alex Neil has offered fresh hope that Daniel Johnson has not yet ruled out committing his future to the club, while he also revealed that Ben Pearson will not be signing any deal.
The Lilywhites have headed into the winter window with many contractual issues surrounding key players in their squad. The likes of Johnson, Pearson and Ben Davies have all yet to commit to new deals despite the Lilywhites being keen to keep all three.
There has been a little more positive news with the arrival of Ben Whiteman and Alan Browne signing a contract extension.
It has been reported that Pearson is interesting Celtic with the Scottish giants hoping to potentially bring him into the club.
While Johnson has been linked with a move to Rangers who failed to sign in the summer and had an offer worth around £1.5 million rejected. The pair alongside Davies have all reportedly turned down club-record £17,000-a-week deals recently.
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However, speaking to Lancashire Live after Preston’s defeat to Bristol City on Saturday, Neil revealed that there is still a chance that Johnson might yet decide to sign a new contract.
Neil also revealed that Johnson was more likely to sign a new deal than Ben Pearson, who was left out of the matchday squad for the Lancashire-based side.
He said: “Listen, Ben would’ve been fit to be in the squad today, but we’ve signed some new lads that need to get minutes now.
“Ben has made it clear to us that his future doesn’t lie here come the end of the season.
“And, there is no point us going and strengthening positions and bringing players in if I’m not going to give them a shot and play them.”
On Johnson, Neil added: “At this moment in time DJ’s much more likely to continue to stay here than what Ben Pearson would be.
“I think that is fair to say, yeah.”
Losing Pearson will be a major blow for the Lilywhites, but you get the feeling that Neil is doing the right thing to take him out of the squad and instead focusing on the players he knows he has a future working with. The addition of Whiteman will somewhat compensate from the loss of the 26-year-old, but he will be a massive miss moving forwards.
Preston have already done well to secure the future of Browne and now from this update, it seems possible that Johnson could yet be convinced by Neil to sign a new contract.
That would be massive for the Lilywhites, with the versatile midfielder integral to their side and having scored four goals and assisted three goals so far this term despite not being at his best at times (Sofascore).
It might be unlikely that Preston can come back in with an offer of more than the £17,000-a-week one they put to Johnson recently though, and that in the end might make the difference between him staying or leaving. However, at least unlike for Pearson there is still a chance that the Lilywhites can yet keep hold of the 28-year-old.