With the new season just around the corner and Preston playing host to Sheffield Wednesday on Saturday afternoon, James Vickers spoke to fellow EPL Index Podcaster @LouisShackshaft about all things Wednesday…
Which players should Preston be weary of come Saturday?
It’s difficult to currently pick out one or two players individually that Preston should be weary of on Saturday. Thankfully, as a Sheffield Wednesday fan it has been nice to appreciate the amount of talent we currently have both in the starting eleven and on the bench over recent years. Obviously it would be easy to pick out players such as Jordan Rhodes, Gary Hooper or even Sam Hutchinson. Hutchinson can be a rock in our defence at times and he proved this with a handful of man of the match performances last season. However, to answer your question, based on consistency over the last two campaigns, Fernando Forestieri stands out due to his ability to change a game at one given moment. He offers a so much in terms of creativity; he is a little live-wire and can be very influential in terms of goals and assists. George Boyd is also expected to make his league debut so I’m hoping to see him bed in nicely and offer something different that we were possibly missing last term.
How was your pre-season gone so far, and how is the team looking going into the new season?
Pre-season has gone relatively well. On a trip toPortugal it was good to see players increasing fitness levels, looking sharp and preparing hard for the season ahead. We have had a couple of victories. More recently, we beat Doncaster Rovers 2-1 away from home and were relatively dominant throughout. Disappointingly, our only home game pre-season saw us suffer a 2-0 defeat to Rangers in front of a crowd of almost 21,000. I thought we were very lacklustre that day and nobody seemed to take the ‘bull by the horns’ if you like. However, I try not to read too much into friendlies, I guess it’s not about that result during pre-season. For me, pre-season is about trial and error, creating a positive vibe and embracing every squad member as they look forward to the season ahead.
As mentioned of the EPL Index Championship Podcast, many people see Wednesday as one of the teams to beat this season. Do you see this as the case?
Sheffield Wednesday do currently have stability and momentum in terms of the manager signing a new contract, almost all of our players have been retained and we have signed a very experienced winger in George Boyd. I can see why people will pick out Sheffield Wednesday as the team to beat. On paper we are probably one of the strongest teams in the league. However, as we all know, football isn’t played on paper. Confidence and a strong squad balance are key and I believe this is the hardest league in the world to get promoted. I personally think we are a couple of players short to consider ourselves promotion contenders, however, there is still time to bring players in and worse case scenario, and the January window could possibly work in our favour if we find ourselves one player short of being automatic promotion runners. I certainly expect Wednesday to be up there, but, anywhere between first and eighth, I wouldn’t like to guess.
You’ve managed to now sign Jordan Rhodes permanently, and brought in George Boyd. Do you think the squad needs improving further at this stage?
Yes. I believe our key players are Sam Hutchinson, Fernando Forestieri, Kieran Lee and Gary Hooper. If, for example two of these players were injured or suspended at once I think this could really disrupt our season, as it did last campaign. Our strike force is second to none and as you mentioned, Jordan Rhodes, I really expect him to kick on this season and hope he can score a minimum of twenty goals. I would love to see an experienced defender arrive to partner either Lees or Loovens, plus maybe another on loan, even, if only until January.
Finally, how do you see Preston doing this season and where do you think they will finish?
Preston impressed a lot of people last season, including myself. Obviously the teams in the Championship are tougher than ever and you could seriously pick out eight or nine teams for promotion. Unfortunately I don’t think Preston are in that bracket, however, if last season was anything to go by, an improvement on last seasons eleventh finish, or even a playoff push would be a fantastic achievement. Alex Neil is a good manager and I’m sure he will get the best out of his squad. I’m very interested to see how Sean Maguire performs in his first few outings; I believe he has the potential to raise a few eyebrows, best of luck to him. If I had to pick a final league standing for Preston I would say tenth/eleventh and have a similar season to last. I’m sure they will cause a few upsets along the way, I’m just hoping that 5 o’clock on Saturday isn’t one of them.