Preston are reportedly interested in making Cork City’s Sean McLoughlin their first addition of the summer transfer window, according to the Irish Independent.
McLoughlin is said to be a long-term target of the Lancashire club, with TEAMtalk reporting last summer that they along with Liverpool and Everton were potential suitors for the young defender.
The Irish Independent also suggest that Preston made an approach in January but were put off by the £250,000 transfer fee. However, after a disappointing end to the campaign Alex Neil may be more determined to strengthen a defence which conceded 17 goals in the last eight games.
Prior to that disastrous end of season form in which Preston won just one of their last eight – and that came against lowly Ipswich – Preston were level on points with Aston Villa, and kept out of the play-offs only by goal difference.
Alex Neil looked like he would replicate or better Preston’s previous finish of seventh, which would have been another successful return given the clubs and budgets they are competing against.
The club has recruited well in the past few years, and they have the basis of a strong Championship season. The likes of Alan Browne, Daniel Johnson and Callum Robinson continue to perform well and will surely attract interest, and they have made smart moves in the transfer market – looking to the lower leagues and signing Jayden Stockley, who after adjusting to the new level since January will be raring to go next season.
It is the defence that is a pressing concern of Neil however, and for good reason. His side conceded 67 goals this season, an increase of 22 on the previous season which must cause alarm.
It is positive to see Neil trust in young centre-backs like Ben Davies and Jordan Storey, who made a big step up after joining from Exeter last summer. With more game time and greater understanding they will become better players, but Neil without experience in the backline that pairing is currently vulnerable, as evidenced by them conceding four away at West Brom and three at home to Sheffield Wednesday in the latter part of the season.
McLoughlin won’t provide that, but he will provide a commanding presence and working with defenders like Tom Clarke and Paul Huntington will aid his development. Sean Maguire was the last player to make the switch from Cork to Preston, and he has so far proved to bit a hit – Preston will be hoping for more of the same from McLoughlin.