When Tom Bayliss was brought in by Preston North End, it was met by praise from fans of the club.
They hailed the midfielder as an astute signing, a player with the potential to become a key figure for them who could end up replacing club hero Paul Gallagher. He could also have huge resale value and generate potential future revenue for the Lilywhites.
Since his arrival though, the player has had quite a difficult time of it.
He made just one appearance in his first campaign as a PNE player. That one appearance also brought just 16 minutes of action. The football picked up for Bayliss a campaign later but he still managed a measly two starts and just 2.9 lots of 90 minutes.
Quiz: Do you know what club these 28 ex-Preston North End players are playing at now?
It wasn’t as though the youngster wasn’t performing either. He bagged a goal when he did feature for the side and some of his running and vision hinted at a player who could offer North End a lot more if given the chance. He was lively in the middle and could offer them a threat both driving the ball forward and also defensively too.
Yet the gametime remained hard to come by. So much so, that with no games under his belt for Preston this season, he made the move to Wigan on a short-term basis to try and find more frequent action.
The move has brought more minutes – he’s started the Latics’ last two fixtures and looked particularly bright in the more recent tie – but it begs the question of whether Bayliss needs to leave North End on a more permanent basis to get his career truly going once his loan deal comes to an end?
For right now, that question is unanswerable. There is no definite yes or no answer, as there are too many variables. A change in management at Preston from Alex Neil to Frankie McAvoy has not brought any extra gametime but if the current boss was to be relieved of his duties with the side lingering near the bottom of the table, would the next head coach give the midfielder more of a chance?
If there was a change of boss, then the player himself might fancy a return to Deepdale too to prove his worth to the new man. This, of course, is all hypothetical. Frankie McAvoy is still in a job and could very well turn it around at PNE as he did at the end of last season. If he does, then would he be willing to give the player a chance upon his return, especially if he becomes a regular feature in League One for Wigan?
There is no doubting his talent at that level. He was a key player for the Sky Blues as they surged out of League Two and then was even more important a year later as they stormed to an eighth place finish in their first year back in the third tier. It’s why Preston chose to bring him in and why the midfielder was viewed as having so much talent and potential.
It would be a waste for North End to not utilise him, to keep him sat on the sidelines. It’s even more surprising that they haven’t been willing to give him much of a chance at Deepdale as of yet. With a midfield filled with talent though now (Ryan Ledson, Ben Whiteman, Alan Browne, Ali McCann, Daniel Johnson and even Lewis Leigh) he might find minutes harder to come by now more than ever.
It would be a shame for Preston to not let Bayliss have more time to prove what he can do – because he has looked a talent in League One for Coventry and there have been flashes of it in Lilywhite colours. If he was to return to North End and be consigned to the bench again though, then it would be a real waste of talent to have him not playing. If that is the case, then the player should certainly consider a move away, as he still has plenty to offer. The only thing is, it might not come in a North End shirt.