Preston North End: A Game of Swaps


I asked some of our writers, podcast co-hosts and friends of the pod/site quite a simple question; if you could bring back one former player from recent times, who would it be, why and who would they replace in the squad?

Okay, you’re probably thinking: “That’s not one question, it’s three”. And you would be right but, you get the point. Now, ask yourself the same, if you could bring back a former player from recent times to play in our current side (when the season resumes of course), who would it be, why and who would they replace?

For me, and there are a couple of other people, unsurprisingly, in this post, it would have to be Jordan Hugill. He’s one of the best number 9s in the league and we’ve quite simply not got a player like him in the squad. Anyway, this is about everyone else who has contributed to the piece so without further ado, let’s dive in.

First up for this, we have friend of From the Finney, Charlie Winyard. Charlie is the man behind the PNE Home and Away twitter account which many of you probably follow. If you aren’t following, you can do by clicking here. Here’s what he had to say:

“For me, it’s got to be Jordan Hugill. He’s the perfect striker for the way we play, we’ve seen what he can do and he’s done it at two other clubs at this level now!

“He’s an all-round good player and I would replace Jayden Stockley with Jordan and the simple reason is that for me, they’re similar players but Hugill is 5 times better.”

Second, we have co-host of the podcast, manager of the PNE fans team and From the Finney’s resident quizmaster, Jimmy Atkinson. You can find Jimmy on twitter here- @baysidepne.

“Aiden McGeady. We wouldn’t have just finished 7th in Alex Neil’s first season if we had signed him permanently. Or any subsequent season for that matter. However, I suspect Aiden and Alex Neil might have been a recipe for disaster…”

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Dan Wheeler next. Dan’s been on the pod numerous times and you can find him on twitter here – @danielo_95_.

“Jordan Hugill. The “missing piece” so to speak, of the current side, is an out and out striker which we just haven’t had since Hugill left. He has the mixture of mobility and power that you need to be an effective striker in the Championship and has proved it by picking up where he left off in terms of goalscoring in this league after joining QPR.

“He goes up top in our current XI. As we don’t even have a solid first-choice striker it would probably be in place of Jayden Stockley. Sorry, Jayden.”

Bob from Preston Updates is the next to take part in this. Bob has recently featured on the From the Finney podcast quite a lot, swapping with me for the worst in the 20 Question Quizcast episodes. You can follow Bob on twitter here – @bobby_melling.

A player with pace, power and passion. The name Jordan Hugill still divides many Preston fans, but when you evaluate our current squad, there is still a gaping Hugill shaped hole. Yes, he did miss chances and yes, he could be reckless. But Hugill remains the perfect mould for an Alex Neil striker.

“In a 4-2-3-1 system, you need a powerful striker who can drag defenders out wide. Someone willing to drop deep, but with the pace to drive forward and unsettle the opposition.

“Villa Park in January 2017 remains Hugill’s best performance in a Preston shirt. At 2-0 down, PNE looked dead and buried. But the Teessider picked up the ball on the halfway line before eventually rifling it into the top corner. Pandemonium. He then completed the comeback with a delightful glancing header. 2-2.

“I’d swap Hugill for Nugent – sorry to all the romanticists out there. I think it’s been clear to see that Nugent is now past his best. Hugill is coming into his prime and with the next transfer window looking likely to be a buyer’s market, it might make the frontman an affordable target.”

The author of our ‘5 Things’ pieces here at From the Finney, Josh McLoughlin is up next. You can follow Josh on twitter here – @josh_mcloughlin.

“When thinking about the North End players that have come and gone over the last decade, one player stands out to me and I would have him back in a heartbeat.

“The arrival of Jordan Pickford on loan from Sunderland in 2015 didn’t cause too much excitement. We had just achieved promotion back to the Championship and a goalkeeper was a priority. It was hoped Sam Johnstone would be returning either on loan or permanently, however, that deal eventually died a death so to speak and so when Pickford was brought in from The Black Cats many thought he was going to be the number 2.

“Chris Kirkland then signed a couple of weeks later and it became clear Pickford would be the first choice. He’d enjoyed loan spells at 5 clubs before his arrival and our only real knowledge of him was when he was in net for Carlisle United when we beat them 6-1 on the way to the play-offs in the 2014/15 season. He went on to start the first game back in the Championship; a home tie against Middlesbrough. He kept a clean sheet and never looked back.

“His place in the team was never really disputed and it quickly became apparent that North End had one hell of a player on their hands. His reflexes were top class but his distribution was what stood out. He could pick out a pass with ease and it really was a joy to watch. It was like having Pirlo in the sticks when it came to passing.

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“Many Preston fans were of the view that Pickford would go on to play for England and it happened perhaps a bit quicker than we thought. Unfortunately, Jordan was only at Deepdale for half a season before Sam Allardyce called him back to Sunderland to have a proper look at him.

“He made his England debut in November 2017 and had a starring role in the World Cup providing a memorable moment with his penalty save in the shootout against Colombia. Quite simply he was one of the best goalkeepers we have seen at Deepdale for a number of years.

“Whilst Declan Rudd has had a solid season with us, I would love to see Jordan Pickford back at Deepdale. I feel he would push us to the next level. Just imagine his quick goal kicks finding Tom Barkhuizen in space for a quick counter-attack. He’s also a very passionate player and quickly understood what this club is all about, he clearly enjoyed his time here. In fact, see the tweet below to see just how much he enjoyed his time at the club.”

The next person we have for you is Ryan Smart. Ryan regularly writes for the site and you can find him on twitter here – @RSSport2.

Jordan Hugill is one of those players whose importance to the North End side has perhaps grown as a result of him leaving for West Ham two years ago. I always thought that, with such a large fee involved, the club were right to sell Hugill when they did. I also thought that the experience of Premier League football, the experience of playing against elite defenders, would improve his game, even if it only meant the occasional appearance off the bench for six months.

“His most recent spell at QPR probably proves that correct. He has 11 goals so far this campaign, and whilst five of those came in August, it is clear that he remains an effective force at this level.

“Hugill’s goal tally outweighs that of any North End forward this season, and he fit Alex Neil’s style of play perfectly when the two worked together. If there was one player I’d like to bring back to the club from the last decade, given where the squad is at the moment, Jordan would be the man. Without a doubt.”

The author of the ‘North End Souls’ book and friend of From the Finney, Keith Harrison is up next with his player. You can find Keith on twitter here – @k_harrison68 and if you haven’t yet got yourself a copy of his book, you can buy that here. Perfect time to buy, to be honest, especially considering number 2 is due out soon.

“It would have to be peak Joe Garner for me. He would run his balls off, fit in with Alex Neil’s tactics and score goals. He would replace Seani, who does two of those things, but not the other, sadly.”

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Finally, and some may say saving the best until last, he certainly would, is my podcast co-host and a man who divides opinion, Oli Gornall. If you aren’t already following him on twitter, you can follow him here – @gorn__.

“Jordan Hugill, for Jayden Stockley. Whilst Stockley has become well-liked by most fans, he isn’t fit to lace Hugill’s boots, in my opinion. That’s not a huge surprise considering Hugill left for £10 million and Stockley was brought in for less than 10% of that.

“Big Jord strangely divided opinion during his time here, probably because a fair few had written him off in his early days and were slightly bitter at the thought of eating humble pie.

“He was already attracting a bit of attention when Alex Neil joined in 2017, however he really developed during the 2017/18 season and was a key part of Neil’s lone striker system. Mobile, physically imposing, genuinely quick, and always a goal threat, Hugill suited Neil’s system perfectly. The Scotsman lauded him an “animal” during that season, and Hugill really developed into one of the most complete no.9s in the league, in my opinion.

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“His ability to mix it up as the lone forward allowed us to press from the front, stretch the centre backs into the channels with his selfless channel runs, it also allowed us to go direct to relieve pressure. Basically, Hugill’s completeness as a striker allowed us to vary our game, such was his versatility. People tend to focus on goal returns for strikers, naturally, however, the other parts of Hugill’s game were really undervalued by the Deepdale faithful.

“Hugill had reached 10 goals by the end of January when he became a Premier League player – he would’ve gone on to score 15+ for us that season when we missed out on the play-offs by 2 points. Before Covid19 halted football, he was on 13 for QPR. He’s one of the best no.9s at this level and he easily guarantees you double figures in terms of goals. He’s coming into his prime now at the age of 27, and he’d vastly improve us.

“My thoughts on Stockley are clear, he’s a league one striker who is a very limited option at the top end of the Championship. He lacks the pace and mobility that Hugill offered, and as the lone man, this limits us massively. He can’t press either really, which is why he rarely starts against sides that we like to get up against.

“This has often meant 35-year-old David Nugent or right winger Tom Barkhuizen have been used as the no.9 – far from ideal. He has his uses, as shown in his substitute appearance at home to Blackburn Rovers in October.

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“If he has the beating of his centre half physically, he is useful. If he doesn’t, he is limited. It’s as simple as that for me. A big downgrade on Hugill.”

And that’s a wrap. Who would you bring back into the current team, why and who would they replace? Let us know on twitter or one of our other social media channels, facebook or instagram.

If you haven’t listened to the latest episode of the From the Finney podcast, you can give it a listen below. It’s a slightly different take on our 20 Question Quizcasts as we’ve got two guests with us; Jon Parkin and Chris Brown.