Preston North End struck up an unlikely deal with Premier League champions Liverpool on deadline day, which saw two centre-backs trade places.
PNE academy graduate Ben Davies made a surprise move to the Reds after establishing himself as one of the Championship’s top central defenders.
Not only do North End get some cash and a sell-on clause out of the deal – more than what they would’ve gotten if Davies had penned a pre-contract with Celtic – but a player was exchanged on return in a loan deal.
Jurgen Klopp has decided to send youngster Sepp van den Berg to Deepdale for the rest of the season in a bid to get some senior football under his belt, having been overtaken in the pecking order at Anfield by Rhys Williams – who ironically is a huge Preston fan.
Van den Berg has experience of senior football with PEC Zwolle in the Eredivisie but hasn’t played a league game in nearly two years.
Let’s look at a few of the obstacles the Dutch youth international has to overcome if he wants to be a success at the Lilywhites.
Quiz: Did each of these 18 ex-Preston North End players ever score a goal at Deepdale?
Getting into the starting line-up
Following the departure of Davies, North End only had two centre-backs in Paul Huntington and Jordan Storey, but Van den Berg makes it three and another deadline day arrival in Liam Lindsay now gives them four, with a fifth in Patrick Bauer ruled out for the season.
Some will think that the teenager is just going to walk into Alex Neil’s line-up, but that isn’t exactly the case.
Peter Ridsdale – advisor to Preston owner Trevor Hemmings – has said that players will be in the team on merit and not of the demands of their parent club, and if Neil wants to retain the balance of a right-footer and a left-footer as a partnership, then it will be Stoke loanee Lindsay replacing Davies.
That means that Van den Berg has to usurp fan favourite Huntington, who is having a stellar run in the starting line-up and is currently undroppable – the Liverpool lad may have to bide his time.
Physically imposing strikers
Whilst Van den Berg is 6ft 2in in height, what he does lack is a bit of muscle, and that could be a bit of a problem in the Championship.
Preston’s next game is against Rotherham on Saturday, and they have the massive Michael Smith who rotates between a starter and a substitute – he is the kind of striker that Van den Berg will probably struggle against.
You’d imagine that he will be more comfortable against the quick, smaller types, but after he was part of a Liverpool under-23 back-line that shipped six against Manchester United’s equivalent last week, which saw young star Joe Hugill net a hat-trick, the 19-year-old comes to Deepdale with a lot to prove anyway.
Joining a completely different environment
Van den Berg has probably felt a bit of frustration this season after seeing Liverpool’s senior centre-backs go down to injury, considering he hasn’t been considered for selection by Jurgen Klopp.
He came into the club in the summer of 2019 with a lot of promise, but Nat Phillips and Rhys Williams have both climbed above him in Klopp’s plans and Van den Berg has been resigned to development squad football essentially.
Van den Berg is going from training with his young peers – albeit at the home of the Premier League champions – to going to battle with experienced players on a daily basis and on matchdays.
He will need to prove that he fits in and belongs at Deepdale in a short period of time, or else he could get left behind in North End’s battle to try and reach the play offs.