This summer is set to be a busy one for Preston North End, who have just released a whole host of players from their squad that were soon to be out of contract.
A mix of senior individuals as well as young players have exited Deepdale, with the likes of Scott Sinclair, Tom Barkhuizen and Paul Huntington leaving meaning that the wage bill will have seen a dramatic decrease.
Whilst several positions will be strengthened in the following months in Ryan Lowe’s first-team squad, the area that needs addressing the most is in-between the sticks.
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North End have been left without a professional goalkeeper following the decision to release Connor Ripley, Matt Hudson and first-year pro Oliver Lombard, as well as Daniel Iversen’s loan deal from Leicester City coming to an end.
Declan Rudd’s retirement towards the end of the 2021-22 season was also a blow, and whilst Lowe would ideally like Iversen to come back to Deepdale for yet another loan stint, realistically there will be bigger clubs chasing the Dane this summer – perhaps on a permanent deal, a method which will be out of reach for North End’s finances.
Another loanee from the top flight would probably be the likely course of action, but Lowe would be foolish if he isn’t considering Plymouth Argyle’s Michael Cooper to fill the number one jersey at PNE.
Cooper and Lowe are no stranger to each other as the former became the latter’s first-choice goalkeeper at the Pilgrims during the 2020-21, with the youngster showing maturity beyond his years even if he didn’t always have a solid defence in-front of him.
Stats-wise from this past season, Cooper has had a very good campaign, keeping 18 clean sheets in 46 league appearances and conceding just 48 goals in that time as well.
According to WhoScored, Cooper made 3.1 saves per match in the league, with 1.9 of those coming from shots inside his own penalty area, and looking further into his stats with Wyscout, Cooper made 2.96 saves using reflexes per match in the 2021-22 season.
In terms of having the ball at his feet, Cooper played an average of 16.12 short passes per match last season with a 97.5 per cent accuracy, which would suggest he is comfortable as a ball-playing goalkeeper if that is what Lowe wants.
Standing at six feet and two inches, Cooper isn’t exactly a towering stopper like Iversen was for North End, but he is tall enough to be commanding and he looks particularly agile as well.
Ryan Lowe will know all this though and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see at least an enquiry go in, but with Cooper contracted for another two years at Home Park, it would take a decent transfer fee to prize him away.
North End though have a chance to secure their number one goalkeeper for potentially the next five years instead of loaning in a new stopper every couple of seasons, and if that chance arises then it’s one they should consider.