When Josh Harrop agreed to join Preston North End from Manchester United, the club, the fans and the player himself were delighted.
Having just bagged a goal in his first showing for the Red Devils, he looked a real talent and for the Lilywhites to have pulled off such a good deal looked a masterstroke and a bargain.
Young, hungry and with the potential to get even better given regular gametime, it looked like he could be the kind of player to help take Preston to the next level.
Instead, four years on, it hasn’t worked exactly how the 25-year old would have wanted. After suffering numerous injuries and spending more and more time on the sidelines, Harrop has found himself falling down the pecking order at Deepdale. In fact, he was even loaned out to Ipswich Town last season.
Now, the attacking midfielder finds himself completely left out in the cold at North End, having been left out of the side’s 25-man squad.
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The team is packed full of players and a few needed to miss out but some fans still held out hope that he would be kept in the side. Instead, he was given the snub by PNE.
Now, it seems like the best outcome for both parties would be for Harrop to depart for pastures new in the winter transfer window.
The most frustrating thing for Preston fans will be that the former Red Devil has indeed shown flashes of his quality. In close to 100 appearances for the Lilywhites, the player has bagged 13 goals and they include some stunning free-kicks and pieces of individual brilliance.
The 25-year old has been incredibly unlucky with injuries, which has no doubt played a part in him being left out in the cold. Just as he began to get a run of games in the starting XI, he would find himself ruled out with a knock or a strain.
With other players now joining the club who are likely to feature above him in the pecking order, he really needs to move on now to get his career back on track.
There is certainly quality there. Despite how his Ipswich Town loan went, he could be an astute addition for any number of League One teams. Any side in the top half could benefit from a healthy Harrop, as he’s proven that on his day he can take on his man, beat them and put the ball in the back of the net.
In fact, it wouldn’t be surprising if another second-tier side wanted to pick him up as a solid squad option.
For North End, they do need to clear out some of their squad. The best thing to do would be to tout Harrop and the others left out of the squad list to any potential buyers in the winter window and offload them to whoever possible. In that respect then, a move would suit both parties here.
The best port of call though for the player would be for the forward to find a team where he could be guaranteed to get frequent action. If he can keep himself fit and firing and get on that team sheet on a weekly basis, then he could finally thrive and become the player that everyone expected him to be. The talent is still there, he’s just running out of time to prove it.