Despite knowing the risks when offering him a contract, Preston North End were dealt a blow a few weeks back when Connor Wickham picked up a serious hamstring injury against Cheltenham Town in the Carabao Cup.
The 28-year-old had only signed a four-month contract a week prior to his first Lilywhites start, and that appearance may be his last for the club.
Fans were calling out for a striker all summer due to a lack of goals in recent seasons, but by the time the transfer window had shut only a ‘forward’ in Josh Murphy had arrived – not the out-and-out front-man that supporters were clamouring for, but a few weeks later Wickham was eventually signed after a long trial period.
North End’s style is clear to see this season, with a lot of their play going direct to the front players – even if Sean Maguire is on the small side and Emil Riis isn’t exactly a striker who holds the ball up, nor is he the best at winning headers.
The Wickham transfer made sense in a way as he could provide the muscle that Ched Evans did last season – he has been sidelined since the first game of the season and hasn’t been seen since – but with the ex-Crystal Palace man now also on the shelf for the foreseeable future, PNE need to go back to the drawing board in January.
They clearly need a striker who can win aerial balls regularly and hold it up as well, and the obvious man they should be looking at is just down the M65 motorway at Accrington Stanley in Colby Bishop.
Whilst it was his Preston-born strike partner Dion Charles who perhaps stole the headlines last season with his 19 League One goals and Northern Ireland call-up, Bishop has got his head down this season after seeing bids rejected for his services from Peterborough United – unlike Charles who has been dropped by John Coleman due to a lack of commitment to the cause.
It’s been an interesting path back to the EFL for Bishop, who came through the Notts County youth system but it was 20 goals in 28 games in 2018-19 for National League North side Leamington, where he played as well as being a teacher, which saw him secure a move to Stanley.
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Bishop has scored 10 goals in each of his two full league seasons at Stanley and in 11 appearances this season he has three goals in League One, but it’s his aerial prowess which saw Posh come in with deadline day bids for the 24-year-old, with their director of football Barry Fry claiming that Bishop is better in the air than their current star striker Jonson Clarke-Harris.
Looking at the stats so far this season, Bishop averages 17.36 aerial duels per game according to Wyscout with a 42 per cent success rate, which averages around 7.3 successful ones a match in League One during 2021-22.
The one concern is that Bishop took nine matches to get off the mark in the league – none of his three goals so far have been headers but he showed a poachers instinct for two of them however five of last season’s league strikes were with his head.
For someone who stands at less than six feet tall he possesses a good leap and that is why he would be a very good fit for North End in the mid-season window.
The obvious issue though is will PNE be able to fund a deal – a seven-figure fee was forked out for midfielder Ali McCann not too long ago and the Lilywhites are not a club who tend to fork out too many of those fees in close succession.
That being said though, Bishop could represent another smart piece of business and it just all depends if the funds will be available to make it happen.