Preston: the Ordinary Boys
Two days ago, I speculated as to Preston North End’s chances of emulating the Stoke City of 2008 and the Burnley of 2009 in elevating themselves next May. Sean St. Ledger’s move to Middlesbrough on loan is a rare example of an upwardly mobile borrowing. That’s not to denigrate the Lilywhites of course; it’s just that one suspects a subsequent hefty fee will be forked out for the faux-Irishman come January. Following on the heels of multi-season mainstay Paul McKenna’s departure for the City Ground in July, the deal may prompt some PNE fans to question the reasoning behind this downsizing.
But Alan Irvine is canny. Employing the strategy of creative destruction denoted by Harvard economist Joseph Schumpeter, he has decided to move players on in order to move the club forward. Just as Sir Alex binned Paul Ince, Andrei Kanchelskis and Posh’s hubbie in previous years and Arsà¨ne Wenger collected a combined 32 million for Emmanuel Petit and Marc Overmars, the Scotsman has quite possibly realised that a) McKenna was past his sell-by date and b) St. Ledger can be a troublesome influence on the dressing room. The ex-Peterborough man does seem to have buckled down since arriving at Deepdale but the 5-0 pasting Boro received on Saturday was a confidence sapping beginning.
So, how does Irvine play his cards now? He still has the totemic Jon Parkin of course, although he needs runners around him to function — a kind of Inzamam-ul-Haq of the football world. Ross Wallace continues to be pivotal, even from a position out on the wing, and Paul Parry is proving to be one of the best signings of the Summer. The other burgeoning plus point is the form of Chris Brown, the ex-Sunderland and Norwich man having weighed in with a brace against Coventry on Saturday. The likes of Parkin, Callum Davidson and Neil Mellor may be firmly in the “willing tryers” category, but we said that about Chris McCann, Martin Paterson and Graham Alexander.