With David Nugent finally unveiled at Preston North End after a decade of speculation, (I did not expect to be typing those words…) I asked myself the question: What would he offer Preston North End at this stage in his career?
We all know the player he used to be and you’d be lying if you said there wasn’t a twinge of excitement at the thought of Nugent back in the blue and white of Preston North End, but a lot has changed in the past 12 years since Nugent signed for Portsmouth in a deal worth around £6 million.
So, here are a few things that I believe Nugent would offer us, even in his twilight years.
The Nostalgia Factor
Yes, I know, this won’t exactly help us on the pitch, but having Nugent back would undoubtedly bring about a buzz simply because of the nostalgia factor.
After signing from Bury in 2005, Nugent went on to score 37 goals in just over 100 appearances, and while those numbers will not be matched in his second stint at the club, they will certainly bring a feel good factor back to Preston.
Imagine the scenes, Wigan at home on the 10th of August, the score is 1-1. Nugent is brought on to replace Stockley in the 82nd minute, before heading home a last-gasp winner in the 90th minute. What a feeling that would be.
An Experienced Head
Nugent’s capabilities on the pitch these days are limited – he’s no longer got the pace, he’s lost some of his durability and he’s no longer a prolific goalscorer.
But, Nugent provides a big tick to Alex Neil’s experience box.
Nugent has done everything, from scoring an international goal during his one and only England cap (although I’m sure Jermaine Defoe would have something to say about that…) to scoring against Manchester United in the Premier League for Leicester.
Nugent epitomises the word experienced and his wealth of knowledge could be vital for our current crop of strikers.
In David Nugent’s last eight league finishes, only once has he finished outside the top ten – and that was during his time in the Premier League. (Thanks @DeepdaleDigest for mining that stat!)
9th— Deepdale Digest (@DeepdaleDigest) July 13, 2019
David Nugent's last eight league finishes. Only once outside the top 10, and that was in the Premier League. Do wonder if that kind of mentality and experience could come in massively handy. #PNEFC
At Championship level, Nugent has often been part of promotion chasing sides, meaning he has the know-how needed to challenge at the top.
And he’ll be hoping to make it third time lucky in his third season at Preston. The first in 2005/06 saw PNE narrowly miss out on promotion after losing out to Leeds in the Play-Off semi-finals and the second before his sale, saw Preston finish 7th – one point behind Southampton in 6th.
Hard-work and David Nugent are synonymous.
Last season, during his time at Derby County, boss Frank Lampard was frequently heard lauding Nugent, not for his goals, but for his hard-work.
In training, Nugent would chase down every single ball, out-perform the youngsters and train with incredible intensity, which is why Lampard invested 1,143 minutes into the Huyton-born hitman last season.
Nuge was given 11 starts, often ahead of the likes of Martyn Waghorn, Mason Bennett and Jack Marriott – two of which were new signings last term.
While Lampard knew Nugent wouldn’t score goals, that didn’t really matter – which sounds ridiculous for me to say of a striker, but it makes sense.
Derby are a possession-based team who play in a similar formation to Alex Neil’s Preston. A double pivot in the middle, three fluid attacking midfielders and a lone striker who is required to be versatile in the final third.
This system meant that goals came from across the midfield, meaning Nugent’s hard-work and perpetual running but lack of goals was permissable.
Winger Harry Wilson bagged 14, number ten Mason Mount registered a total of 8, while the highest scoring striker was Waghorn with just 8 goals.
At Preston it was a similar picture, with the midfield three contributing to the bulk of the goals.
All I’m saying is that although Nugent won’t be that mythical 20+ goal a season striker, that’s not what he’s been brought in to do and it actually isn’t that important.
Nugent has been re-signed at the age of 34 due to his reputation as a hard-working forward who just won’t stop running when he’s on the pitch. And maybe, just maybe, being back at Preston might just give him a new lease of life.