Preston North End: Team of the Year 2022


In December 2021, Preston North End weren’t sure of where they were heading.

Under Frankie McAvoy, they had picked up some solid enough results but the signs were that the Lilywhites may be on the decline. The club, on the first of that month, were sat in 17th place in the Championship table and had lost more games than they had won. They’d also conceded four more and it led to the side seeking a change in leadership. Enter, Ryan Lowe.

The former Plymouth boss took the reins at the club and has now completed his first year at the helm. It’s seen the side struggle at times against some of their derby rivals – the least said about that the better – but also pick up points against some of the best teams in the league. Right now, the side are sat in the top six in the second tier standings for example, with Lowe not even having a full-strength team.

With 2023 on the horizon then, there have been plenty of players that have come in and out of the team over the course of the year. But who has made the PNE Team of the Year 2022?

GK – Freddie Woodman

Perhaps the hardest pick in the entire team, Freddie Woodman has stiff competition for this spot in the form of Daniel Iversen. The Leicester City man was impeccable during his time at Deepdale and played in all 46 games last season for the side. He was the Player of the Year for North End and his performances led to many clamouring for the shot-stopper to be snapped up on a permanent basis.

Woodman has proven that the clamour wasn’t needed. He has been arguably even better and as a permanent signing, the former Newcastle man promises to be the heart of the PNE backline for years to come. He’s shown he can be one of the best goalkeepers in the entire Championship and his record this season so far makes for fantastic reading – 22 games played, only 21 goals against and eleven clean sheets (the most in the league).

RWB – Brad Potts

Right wing-back has been somewhat of a problem position for PNE as of late, but Brad Potts has made the spot his own. Despite primarily playing as a midfielder, he was thrown into the role last season and has continued to shine as the stand-out option there this campaign too. He can bag goals, gets forward with verve and puts a shift in defensively too. He does everything that Ryan Lowe needs of him at the moment.

CB – Sepp van den Berg

Sepp had to slot into this team somewhere and it comes at the expense of Jordan Storey (which might lead to some controversy I’m sure!)

It’s not that Jordan Storey hasn’t been good enough – far from it. The youngster has returned from Sheffield Wednesday an even better player and will likely be one of the key players for North End at the back this campaign. The only reason Sepp gets the nod is for doing it over a longer period and in more games. The Liverpool loanee was one of the first names on the teamsheet during his time here and became a real fan favourite. The ‘Ginger Maldini’ proved that he could be our best defender over the course of his time here and that’s why he just edges it.

CB – Liam Lindsay

Lindsay has been a man reborn under Ryan Lowe this season and he has been rewarded with a brand new contract to boot, much to the delight of Preston fans.

When he first signed for North End, he was shaky and uncertain at the back. There were a few errors and he didn’t look as solid as he promised to be and it led to the former Stoke man falling out of the team and sometimes out of the squad completely. With PNE facing a shortage of options at the back though, Lowe has trusted Lindsay to do some hard graft at the back and he has done so with aplomb so far. He is part of the reason with Preston have had one of the best defences in the league this season and he promises to be a Player of the Year candidate if he continues in this fine vein of form.

CB – Andrew Hughes

Andrew Hughes simply couldn’t be dropped from this XI due to his superb transformation into a left-sided centre-back from a left-back.

Still capable of playing on that flank when needed but better in the centre, he is another player that has reborn under Ryan Lowe in this new system. He looks comfortable on the ball, always puts a shift in and his performances can sometimes be underrated due to the simple and positive things he does. Another key member of the first-team squad.

LWB – Alvaro Fernandez

Left wing-back has been an area in which North End have been left short changed over the last year but Alvaro Fernandez has arrived from Man United to strengthen us on that flank.

Despite not initially being the first-choice there, he has now established himself as the main pick at LWB. He has been electric, with bombarding runs and an ability that belies his age. Another loanee who has already become a fan favourite, fans will no doubt be sad to see him return to Old Trafford next summer.

CM – Ben Whiteman

Who else could fill that central midfield role apart from Ben Whiteman, who has really settled into the team and should be a shoe-in for captaincy duties at some point.

Like the quarterback-esque role that Paul Gallagher originally fielded for PNE, Whiteman can dictate the play from the centre of the field and pick out passes with his fantastic vision. He can split open opposition defences, whilst also breaking up opposition attacks. The real spine of this team.

CM – Daniel Johnson

It was a real toss up between Daniel Johnson and Alan Browne here. Both have had their ups and downs over the last year but both are certainly capable of producing the goods at key moments.

Over the last year, they were both excellent in terms of contributing goals and assists. DJ has so far managed seven goals with seven assists in the Championship, whilst his Irish teammate has managed four and five. Based on these tallies – and based on the showings the Jamaica international is capable of – he just nudges ahead. Johnson can go missing but he can also be the difference between a win and a loss, as shown by his star turn against Blackburn at the weekend.

CM – Robbie Brady

Robbie Brady had to feature in here somewhere and he’s versatile, having been thrown in several different positions by Ryan Lowe so far, so I’ve shoved him centrally.

Capable of playing as an attacking midfielder, on the wing, in defence or basically wherever Lowe trusts him, Brady has often performed. He’s been excellent with dead ball situations and his crossing and passing range has been one of the standout features of his game so far. Whilst he’s yet to hit the back of the net this season himself, he tops the assists leaderboard and his experience has been vital in helping lead the side this campaign.

ST – Emil Riis

Riis, by his own standards, hasn’t had the same season this time around as he managed last term. He was in and out of the team at first and now he has nailed down a starting berth again, he isn’t always in the goals. The fine form of Ched Evans has also seen him take a backburner.

That doesn’t mean he is any less good – far from it. In fact, he still tops the goalscorer rankings in the squad this year in the Championship with five and his game also allows him to bring his teammates into play. He has a superb burst of pace, can take on defenders and his hold up is often solid. He allows others around him to thrive as well as bag himself and after his 16-goal haul last season, he has more than earned this spot.

ST – Cameron Archer

Typing this section did bring a tear to the eye, I can’t lie to anyone. His time with PNE came from January to the summer but it was a spell that saw him quickly endear himself to the North End faithful and led to desperate pleas for his return to the side.

Whether that happens or not is unclear yet but reflecting on his time at Deepdale brings plenty of fond memories. He managed seven goals and one assist in just 18 starts for the club and away from his goalscoring exploits, his all-round game was nothing short of extraordinary for someone of his age. He showed a willingness to take on and beat players, he had pace to burn and he was always able to craft shooting opportunities for himself. A clinical finisher, he even bagged a goal against Blackpool. What more do you want? Archer then rounds out this team – and could hopefully round it out again in the near future (make it happen North End!)

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