We live in strange times. North End's season concluded around ten days ago. The players are off until mid-August when pre-season training will start again before an expected start to the new season a month later.
Preston's season really came to an end away at Brentford when a solitary Watkins goal sent them to defeat and with that any mathmatical chance of making the play offs had disappeared.
North End ended the season with a home victory against Birmingham before an away day draw at Bristol City. The last three games were a microcosm of the season and in reality all hopes of the top six had ended shortly after lockdown restrictions were lifted.
There is plenty of uncertainty in the air at present. Typically Preston would sell one of their assets to balance the books. It has been the case over the last few years with Robinson and Hugill the most notable players to leave.
Many players are now enetering the last year of their contracts. Preston may look to cash in. It is still not entirely clear whether clubs will start spending given that incomes are restricted for a lot of clubs in the current climate.
Rumours have also started circulating over the manager. He has now completed three seasons at the club none of which have ended in a top six finish.
It is accepted that the budget at Preston is minimal. Sections of Preston's support feel Neil is sometimes too stubborn and unwilling to change his favoured players or indeed his tactics until it is too late.
The manager has been linked with other vacanacies before and may feel that he has done all he can at the club taking into consideration the financial limitations of the club.
If there is a change then Preston are not in the worst shape. If players do leave there are replacements already at the club. It is apparent from the results last season that Preston are capable of beating the bottom sides. In fact, they have an excellent record against sides in the bottom third of the table.
Teams in the middle third of the table with better defensive capabilities have worked Preston out. They sit back soak up the pressure and try to hit Preston on the break.
North End lack any guile to break down defences. They approach the last third then seem to go sideways or backwards. It is either a direction by the management or simply a lack of know how. It has cost Preston dearly.
In terms of the top clubs Preston have had a better season. They took points off Leeds and in their good early season form beat Brentford and Fulham.
If Preston are to improve from mid table they need to start winning against the top sides away from home. I don't know the exact figure but I would suspect away victories against sides that finish in the top six can be counted on one hand since Preston's return to the Championship.
It is a tough league but with little improvements Preston might be able to push on. Those hoping for big spending will be disappointed. If the management regime does change then the style might as well but there wil be no splurging on big money signings.
It is a cycle which Preston need to break out of. The league this season was not dominated by one side as it has been in the past. Teams will lose a number of games but Preston have to try to be more consistent if they are goign to challenge for a play off spot.