Despite picking up their first win of the season in the Championship against Peterborough United on Saturday afternoon, there was still a clear issue in Preston North End’s team that needs addressing.
Centre-back Patrick Bauer decided the game in the first half after heading home Ryan Ledson’s teasing free-kick delivery, and he put PNE’s forwards and midfielders to shame with his accuracy.
That 1-0 victory should have been a lot more though in reality, and it would have been incredibly cruel on the Lilywhites had Jonson Clarke-Harris got a stronger touch to Sammie Szmodics’ accurate long pass with the final kick of the game – instead of diverting it into the path of Jack Marriott the ball was tipped around the post by Daniel Iversen to secure the three points.
It was North End who had the most chances though – Ben Whiteman hit the crossbar, Scott Sinclair went one-on-one with Christy Pym only to shoot straight at his legs, Emil Riis missed some golden chances after coming off the bench and both Daniel Johnson and Brad Potts had chances inside the box to kill the game off.
The lack of clinicalness in-front of goal only strengthened North End’s case to get a new striker in before the end of the transfer window, and word quickly circled during the match that a free agent was sitting with the unused PNE players in the Invincibles Pavilion which pointed towards a potential deal being done.
It was indeed Connor Wickham, ex-Sunderland, Ipswich Town, Sheffield Wednesday and Crystal Palace striker who was at Deepdale and he took a part in the post-match warm-down with players who didn’t make it onto the pitch.
LancsLive have reported that Wickham trained with PNE at least once last week which led to him being at Deepdale for the victory over Posh, but no final decision has been made as to whether he will be snapped up as a free agent.
However it seems like a bit of a risk to take a punt on someone with the injury record of Wickham – especially when you take into consideration what has happened to Izzy Brown already after joining North End.
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Brown came in from Chelsea having struggled with bad injuries in recent years and just a month into his time at the club, the 24-year-old ruptured his achilles and is facing spending the majority of the season on the sidelines.
Wickham’s injury list (via transfermarkt) reads a long one, the most serious of them all an ACL injury in 2016, and he spent the majority of the 2020-21 season on the sidelines with his only match action coming in the form of two matches for Crystal Palace’s under-23 squad.
With Wickham now being 28 as well, there’s no resale value when it comes to his potential signing and you’re also unlikely to get a full season out of him due to his fitness issues.
There’s no doubt that when he is fit and firing, Wickham knows where the back of the net is – he has the technical ability that saw him snapped up by Sunderland for a fee in excess of £12 million in 2011 but his lack of game-time over the last five years means that it’s a really big gamble to take.
North End’s best transfer deals in recent years have been snapping up young, hungry prospects from Premier League under-23 teams, nurturing them and either making them key players or selling them on – just look at how Callum Robinson developed and was sold, and whilst they didn’t get much money for Ben Pearson when he went to Bournemouth he was another bargain addition in 2016.
That is a route the club should be going down instead of taking a punt on an injury-prone striker and the breakdown of Izzy Brown in pre-season should be a massive lesson to the club, but they may be about to take a turn down that road again and if Wickham is the only striker signing that PNE were to make this summer then there would no doubt be serious anger from a large section of the club’s supporters.