It’s been just over two weeks since Will Keane terminated his loan spell at Preston, so I thought I would deliver to you the Preston perspective with regards to the development of the 23 year-old during his time at PNE.
At the onset of the New Year it was reported that Keane’s overwhelming desire to make an impression at parent club Manchester United was the rationale behind his premature departure, but he certainly made his swift exit amid an air of perplexity and incredulity, as Preston fans began to question his credentials and logic in making such an impetuous decision. His sudden departure did leave an acrid taste on the tongues of many Preston fans, but I know most would agree that he certainly made an impact at the club in a variety of ways during his short spell with the Lilywhites.
Whilst Keane indubitably has some raw talent as an attacking player, he is far from the finished product that he claims to be. Yes, his movement both on and off the ball is astute and he does apply himself in a diligent manner, but he will never be the answer to any goal drought that a Division Four side are facing, never mind Man United. He is devoid of that prolific streak and that certain exuberance that would see him hit a double figure goal tally per season. His strengths do not lie in providing goals or as a target man, however, and he should definitely be deployed as that false 9 player who has the freedom to drop deep and pull wide in order to link up play and disrupt the opponent’s marking structure. Will is always keen to get a foot on the ball and release his attacking counterparts and his quick feet allow for some scintillating interplay at times. However, too often he is found chasing shadows and he is usually muscled off the ball by the opposition’s defence. Whilst he may stand at the towering height of 6’ 1”, he definitely doesn’t provide a bustling physical presence in the final third of the football pitch. He is perhaps more reminiscent of a certain Peter Crouch with regards to his physique. He also insisted on wearing a pair of gloves each match during a peculiarly tepid December temperature-wise… Take from that what you wish.
By far, the pinnacle moment of Keane’s brief time at Preston was his crucial goal scored away at our Lancashire rivals Burnley, which sparked scenes of belligerence and vivacity in the packed away end at Turf Moor. Keane burst forward with pace, purpose and dynamism before unleashing a powerful strike which, with a slice of fortuity, crept under the keeper and into the empty net. It definitely boosted his status among the Preston faithful, as the goal ignited a series of chants involving the 23 year-old’s name. And it was from that moment onwards that Keane’s confidence seemed to take a dramatic boost, as his form picked up and he then started each of the next five games for Preston; showing plenty of promise in those fixtures. However, it wasn’t to last as reports emerged at the beginning of the month stating that Keane had ‘pleaded’ with Van Gaal to be brought back to United, as he believed he could be the answer to their lack of goals. I find such claims implausible and dubious, and I would strongly suggest that perhaps some sort of fall out laid the foundations for Keane’s abrupt exit. Especially seen as he hasn’t even featured on the mundane side-lines for the first team at Old Trafford, never mind having a place in the starting XI. Whatever the case may have been, it was an unusual situation to say the least.
Although I think it’s safe to say that most here at Preston haven’t missed his presence on the pitch and it’s fairly apparent that the team are coping too, as we are currently experiencing a fine run of form in the League; with two imperative wins coming against teams facing the perilous fight for survival. Keane only managed to contribute a meagre two goals during his 22 appearances at the club and for any forward player this is a feeble return. Whilst his shrewd link up play was invigorating to watch at times, he simply didn’t contribute enough to the team in general. Perhaps he wasn’t given enough game time, or perhaps he just hasn’t quite refined his ability’s as a footballer. There is definitely a promising player within Keane, I just think he needs either more time out on loan or maybe even a permanent move away from Manchester in order to further mature and flourish as a player.