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Preston North End

Jordan Hugill: From the Dickens Inn pub to West Ham United

West Ham’s latest recruit Jordan Hugill has come a long way since his days spent in the Glenn Hoddle Academy and he is now ready to establish himself as a top flight striker, writes Ryan Smart.

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Jordan Hugill

Just over five years ago, new West Ham signing Jordan Hugill worked shifts in the Dickens Inn pub, situated in his home city of Middlesbrough.

Hugill had just joined non league Marske United on loan, still recovering from an anterior cruciate ligament injury suffered whilst playing for Whitby Town.

The striker was originally supposed to go on trial with then-Premier League side Sunderland in 2009, but suffered an ankle injury and eventually went on to join the Glenn Hoddle Academy.

Hoddle spoke of his pride, on the evening of Deadline Day, at seeing the 25-year-old progress from that academy all the way to West Ham United, who he has signed for nearly £10 million from Preston North End.

Hammers boss David Moyes formerly managed North End, and still has close ties with the club.

He has attended various games at Deepdale this season, so will know the qualities that Hugill will bring to the table at the London Stadium.

Hugill leaves the Lilywhites with 30 goals in over 100 appearances for the club, 23 of those coming in the past two seasons, having joined in the summer of 2014 from Port Vale.

His recent move represents a huge profit for Preston, eclipsing their previous club record sale, that of David Nugent to Portsmouth for £6 million in 2007.

However, he will be a significant loss, especially considering he is their top goal scorer in all competitions this season with 10, eight of those coming in the league.

He spent two loan spells away from North End in his first season, his second at Hartlepool being an infamous one.

His four goals, including the winner against Exeter City that kept Pools in the Football League that season, wrote his name in Hartlepool folklore, despite having only been at the club for just over a month.

He made huge strides in the following two seasons, forcing his way into Preston’s starting line-up and, crucially, staying there.

Something that is uncommon in football these days is a deal that suits all parties, with this deal a good example of that.

West Ham are getting themselves the new striker they desperately needed and Preston get a good financial deal for the striker.

It also gives other members of Alex Neil’s squad the chance to press their claims to become Hugill’s replacement as North End push for the Championship play-off spots.

The club’s 3-0 away win over Nottingham Forest on Tuesday, without Hugill in the side, shows that they have players capable of stepping up.

The player himself wanted a move in August, having had a transfer request rejected on deadline day, before finally getting his Premier League move this window.

In terms of his playing style, Hugill’s hold up play is amongst the best in the country, with the striker an effective presence up front.

Andy Carroll has had plenty of success playing the lone target man role for West Ham, when fit, and Hugill will be aspiring to reach that kind of level.

His natural finishing ability does need some improvement, but working with the likes of Carroll and Javier Hernandez means he will be learning from some of the best in the business.

Hugill is still unproven to West Ham fans – he was unknown to some when he was first linked – but his work ethic and commitment to improving should bring them onside as he looks to establish himself in the Premier League.

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Who will win the race for the Sky Bet Championship play-offs?

The Championship play-offs are just around the corner.

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Photo: Getty Images

The Championship is a league renowned for its unpredictability and twists and turns in what is a 46 game long season.

On any given weekend, any team can beat another which makes it one of the closest and exciting leagues in the world.

This season has proved no different, with six teams still competing for a play-off place with just six games to go.

In 5th place currently is Derby on 68 points, three points clear of 7th placed Millwall with a game in hand.

They are at the moment the favourites to secure a play-off spot, with the top three having already practically guaranteed their places if they do not gain automatic promotion.

Aston Villa look to set to join them, with a maximum of eight points needed from their last five games to be sure of making the play-offs.

Gary Rowett’s side have bounced back well from the loss of Johnny Russell in January to the MLS and a string of first-team injuries that have decimated the squad in recent months.

Most of their stars, including Tom Huddlestone and Joe Ledley, returned for their 1-0 away win over Preston on Easter Monday, a result that was desperately needed.

They followed that up with a 3-0 win over Bolton at the weekend, and the goals of Matej Vydra plus the defensive experience of Curtis Davies and Scott Carson should see them over the line.

(Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images)

Two points behind them in 6th is Tony Pulis’s Middlesbrough, who have seen an upturn in form since the former West Brom man took over in December.

Pulis is known for his defensive style of play but Middlesbrough have scored plenty since he came in, with Adama Traore in particular impressing.

A club like Boro will be expecting play-offs as a minimum, and you would expect them to achieve that goal given the quality of their squad, although even if they don’t get there this season, they will be one of the favourites to go up next season under Pulis.

(Photo by Ashley Allen/Getty Images)

The surprise package of this season has been Millwall, with Neil Harris leading his side to an unexpected 7th place berth at this stage of the season.

The Lions have only lost one game all season, that being on New Years’ Day at Norwich.

They have relied on a mixture of youth and experience, with younger players like Jake Cooper, Jed Wallace and George Saville complemented by the likes of veteran Steve Morison, and an immense run of form has given them every chance of making the play-offs, which would be a remarkable achievement.

Most fans surely would have been happy with a mid-table finish on their return to the Championship, but they have defied expectations so far.

They face tricky trips to Middlesbrough and Sheffield United, and home games against Fulham and Aston Villa, but win at least a couple of those and the Lions could be roaring at the end of the league season.

(Photo by Harry Trump/Getty Images)

Behind them on 62 points is Bristol City, who have had a mixed run of form since the turn of the year.

They briefly went 2nd in the table after a Boxing Day win against Reading, just a week after Lee Johnson’s side defeated Manchester United to reach the semi-finals of the Carabao Cup.

They eventually lost on aggregate to Manchester City after giving them a stern test, but have only won twice since then.

Like Millwall, they too face a trip to the Riverside to play Middlesbrough and host Sheffield United on the final day, but they are only four points off the top six and can still make it in.

(Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

Another side who had an excellent first half of the season is Sheffield United, Chris Wilder’s side briefly sitting in top spot after a 2-1 away win against Leeds in October.

They have fallen away since then, currently sitting 9th and behind Bristol City on goal difference, but regardless of whether they qualify for the play-offs or not, it has still been a good season for Wilder’s men.

They drew 1-1 with Cardiff last week, a game which they had the better chances in, showing the fine margins that exist in the Championship.

The Blades lost in the Yorkshire derby against Barnsley on Saturday, a result that puts them four points behind Middlesbrough.

They host Preston before the season is out, a game which could still prove crucial for both teams, and also play Bristol City and Millwall.

Brentford sit just one point behind them in 10th, having shown some resurgence in recent weeks.

Their transfer policy is a very effective one, using a stats model to sign players both from England and all around the world.

Some of their signings appear to be gelling together well, with summer signing Neal Maupay netting the winner in both of their previous two games.

Manager Dean Smith has been linked with Premier League jobs in the past, and has done an excellent job at the Bees, who will surely be challenging at the end of the season.

(Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

The final team that have a realistic chance of reaching the play-offs is Preston North End, Alex Neil’s side currently occupying 11th place on 60 points.

They have lost their last three league games, although they were unlucky to lose against Derby and had the fair share of possession and chances against Reading.

Neil’s side face only one team out of the top 11 in the remaining fixtures – Sheffield United – which could work in their favour.

They have missed the firepower of top scorer Sean Maguire, who missed four months of the season due to injury, but his return has boosted the team, who have seen some outstanding performances already this season from the likes of Ben Davies, Ben Pearson and Alan Browne.

If Neil’s side can get substantial points out of their remaining games, they still have a chance of qualifying for the play-offs, although like the teams above them up to 7th, will need to rely on Derby and Middlesbrough dropping points.

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Preston North End

How Twitter reacted as Sunderland entered talks with Preston manager Simon Grayson



Simon Grayson Sunderland

It’s hardly been the best of times over at the Stadium of Light during the past year, with relegation from the Premier League after a woeful campaign compounded by the loss of manager David Moyes.

Yet there was a silver lining to the Black Cats’ cloud on Thursday afternoon as BBC Sport reported that the club have been granted permission to talk to Preston’s Simon Grayson about the vacancy.

Grayson, who has been at the helm of Preston North End since February 2013, led them to promotion from League One and has since established them as a relatively safe Championship side.

And a statement coming from the club’s official website today announced that the 47-year-old will undertake talks with Sunderland about becoming their new manager, with Grayson keen on a switch.

Sunderland supports alike took to Twitter to discuss the news, and some were happy…

Others were visibly less pleased…

Whilst some seemed to be verging on despair…

In addition to the managerial news it was also announced that the proposed sale of Sunderland Football Club is off the table, with recent ongoing talks with a German consortium coming to an end.

Recruitment of a new manager had been put on hold whilst takeover talks were happening but it transpired today that American Short – run by owner Ellis Short – will continue their role in charge.

Sunderland’s official website released a statement detailing the failed takeover talks, claiming that the proposed takeover of the football club was “not in the best interests” of trying to move forward.

And the news didn’t please many Sunderland fans…

What do you think Sunderland fans? Is Grayson a good move from the club? Let us know below.

Featured Image: All rights reserved by Dan Westwall.

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Manchester United

Are Manchester United missing a trick letting Josh Harrop leave for Preston?



Josh Harrop Preston North End

It was announced today on the Manchester United official website that up-and-coming young midfielder Josh Harrop will leave Old Trafford at the end of the month to join Preston North End on a full-time basis.

The 21-year-old – who made his debut during United’s final game of the Premier League season against Crystal Palace – will join up with Preston on a free transfer with a reported four-year deal.

He caught the eye of many on his one and only top-flight appearance, scoring the opener in a routine victory and frightening Palace’s defence with a display full of intent, trickery and speed.

Should Jose Mourinho have let the youngster leave?

Although it was never likely that Harrop was going to break into the United starting eleven for next season alongside the likes of Juan Mata, Marcus Rashford, Jesse Lingard and Anthony Martial, allowing him to leave Old Trafford on a full-time basis seems like a strange call from Jose Mourinho.

Allowing him time to develop in a competitive Championship is ideal at this stage in Harrop’s budding career – but to let him leave on a permanent basis could leave many scratching their heads.

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His first-team debut may have just been a cameo performance but there was more than enough potential to suggest that he has a bright future on the biggest stage, already testing top-flight sides.

He looked right at home at Old Trafford, showing little sign of nerves and not looking out of place one bit on his way to a 98% passing accuracy, also supplying four crosses and testing the ‘keeper twice.

There was a defensive spark to his game too that makes him the ideal player to grow under the management of Mourinho, making four tackles in a stirring all-round performance against Palace.

People can dumb down Harrop’s performance for a few reasons – it was the last game of a long season for both sides, and neither United nor Palace had anything to place for – but the fact is he still impressed.

And he’s been impressing all season in the Under-23 side too, ending the season as top goal-scorer after notching 10 times in 25 appearances including a hat-trick in front of first-team boss Mourinho.

The confidence that comes with such a fruitful season – at any level – showed in his Premier League bow, taking his first Manchester United goal exceptionally well.

The composure to take his time and not rush into a shot was as if he had at least two years’ experience under his belt, drawing in the challenges before releasing a superb effort into the corner.

In a sense, Manchester United’s loss will certainly be Preston’s gain heading into next season, and Mourinho must have a firm idea of the direction of the Reds to allow a promising youngster to leave.

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