As the January transfer window closed for business on Tuesday night it would be a total understatement to suggest that the Preston North End that left it was a completely different one to the team that entered it.
Not only have we appointed a new manager, who achieved massive success at Stevenage, but he has gone on to bring in seven new players during the window. With Chris Holroyd, Jamie McAllister, Andy Procter, Alex Marrow, Chris Robertson, Rhys Murphy and Graham Cummings all arriving at the club.
Overall nine players came in as Jake Jervis and Harry Bunn were brought in by the caretaker managers but they have both returned to their parent clubs. Not only were seven players signed but there were a handful of departures as well. Club captain Ian Ashbee was released from his contract just over a year after signing, Juhvel Tsoumou has been loaned out to Plymouth Argyle and Clarke Carlisle has had his loan deal cancelled and he has since gone on loan to Northampton.
Personally I think all three departures are very beneficial to the club and we have certainly left January in a stronger position than we entered it. On the field I believe we badly need these signings to be successful as Preston’s form was highly erratic with one win, two draws and 2 defeats in January. It is almost fair to say that any chance of the play offs have now disappeared.
Subsequently Westley would need to dramatically turn around the fortunes of the club if we were to be plying our trade in the Championship next season. It seems highly unlikely with Preston languishing in fourteenth place in the table and nine points off Stevenage in sixth who also have a game in hand.
With Ashbee out the door we now will also need a new full time captain. Coutts would have been the obvious choice to succeed him, but Westley has since stripped him of the captaincy, citing a poor attitude and a lack of professionalism. As he is suspended for the next two games, he has been granted leave from the club for a few games to get himself mentally in shape again. I think this is crucial to our hopes both this and next season as undoubtedly Coutts is one of our best players and we are a poorer team without him. However I completely agree with Westley’s actions and we have to remember that no man is bigger than Preston North End and that is how it should be.
The Graham Westley revolution is in full swing now and it will be tested by the visit of play-off contenders Brentford. They will be out for revenge after Preston won 3-1 at Griffin Park in September, back when we were on our seven game winning streak.
Any Preston fan would give a lot for a similar winning streak right now and it would certainly make Westley extremely popular at the club. It is very apparent now that it will take a long time before we are pointing in the right direction but I have every faith in Westley turning us into a successful Championship team again.