As a football fanatic and Preston North End enthusiast, I will deliver to you on a monthly basis the Preston perspective with regards to the development of Manchester United loanee Will Keane.
First things first, I must admit that when Will Keane was unveiled and news about the deal began to materialise, I along with many other fans felt a little perplexed about the move. He joined the club amid an air of ambiguity; purely due to the little knowledge we had of him. However, a quick delve into the facts soon uncovered a shrewd bit of business from our newly promoted club. According to our manager, Simon Grayson, we had beaten off a whole host of Championship clubs in our bid to earn Will Keane’s lucrative signature. What wasn’t to like? He was young, hungry and had a desire to succeed. Despite having his development hampered by a severe knee injury 2 years ago, Keane has refused to let expectations drop. He has spent several prosperous spells on loan at Championship clubs, the latest being Sheffield Wednesday, and on the face of it, Keane seems willing to endeavour perpetually if it means a permanent position at his boyhood club Manchester United.
With last weekend’s game away at Hull City marking the culmination of this first chapter in the football season for Preston, we thought it would be the ideal time to keep up with the progress of the Manchester United youngster.
The 22 year-old striker’s origin lies in Stockport; the metropolitan Borough of Greater Manchester. Standing at 6ft 2′ tall, Keane operates the role of a striker with his main attributes being his diligent movement both on and off the ball, and his ability to score goals. However over the course of this month and during our fruitful pre-season campaign, I have also began to detect signs of the inner playmaker that lies within Keane, and his aptness as a forward player.
Keane’s counterparts stand in the form of the irksome talisman Joe Garner and the astute goal poacher Jermaine Beckford. Due to a severe knee injury, Beckford has and will be sidelined for a good few months, so Garner has been Keane’s partner up top. And as the reigning League One Player of the Year, I don’t think there are many better players to learn from than Joe Garner.
Keane has adapted to his role at Preston seamlessly. Perhaps this is due to featuring heavily during pre-season, or perhaps more of the emphasis should be placed on his industrious disposition. Keane hasn’t allowed the occasion to pass him by and his head appears to be in the right place; metaphorically speaking of course! He certainly had a gratifying start upon his arrival at Preston finding the net several times during pre-season, and although he has struggled to strike gold in competitive League fixtures, I have definitely witnessed plenty of signs that once he discovers his confidence in front of goal, he will score plenty. An eclectic combination of both astute movement and an eye for goal ensure that Keane is a youthful prospect with an abundance of talent and potential.
Will Keane score goals? Undoubtedly. He came tantalisingly close to opening his Preston North End account on his home debut against title favourites Middlesbrough; only for his strike to be fortuitously cleared off the vulnerable Boro goal line by the boot of a defender. In the same game Will also found himself at the epicentre of an on pitch feud; playing with his heart on his sleeve during a belligerent outburst. It was a high intensity affair at Deepdale and Keane’s fitness levels definitely appeared to be at their optimum level during the fiery contest. I couldn’t help but admire his endeavour. In fact with the sheer amount of ground Keane covered he probably could’ve powered the floodlights, and even found himself in among the fans starting a couple of chants! His style of play was the sort us fans love to see.
Keane was a member of the starting line up as Preston travelled to Crewe in the Capital One Cup and he even found himself on the scoresheet; stabbing the loose ball home from close range. Whilst it may have been a simple chance to convert, Keane’s positioning was anything but simple.
Preston’s next fixture was a trip away to newly promoted side MK Dons and once again Keane was named in the starting XI. This time he didn’t find himself on the scoresheet, however he was part of a winning team; the result finishing 1-0 in Preston’s favour. Whilst Keane didn’t look like much of a goal threat, his intelligent link up play was well worth a mention. Every time the ball came to him, his head was up and he was seeking out the run of one of his attacking counterparts. He oozed confidence and came tantalisingly close to grabbing an assist. He slipped in the diminutive midfielder Daniel Johnson, who struck the ball a mere inch or two wide.
The Lilywhites went on their travels for the third consecutive match, with the New York Stadium set as their destination. Rotherham United, a side who were yet to register a point, were their opponents and yet again Keane was deservedly operating up front in Preston’s counter attacking system.
It was a rather mundane match on a drab Tuesday night and after 90 minutes it finished 0-0. Whilst it certainly wasn’t a compelling fixture, Keane did have a good opportunity late on in proceedings. He did well to jink round his man before firing the ball amid the onions in the burger van from 20 yards out. A good opportunity spurned, but perhaps a sign that he is just lacking a bit of composure in front of goal. However it will come, indubitably.
News was divulged after Preston’s trip to Rotherham that Keane had sustained a minor knock, which to his and our vexation, meant he didn’t feature during North End’s next three fixtures. Even when he did come on as a substitute in the aforementioned games, he didn’t have enough time to make a notable impact.
So, after completing a little bit of extensive research and listening to the fans, the general consensus with regards to Keane is clear.
He is a talented asset to have at the club, but currently he just lacks bite and that clichéd cutting edge. His work ethic and attitude is extremely gratifying to see, but he is currently devoid of a prolific goal scoring streak that is an oddity amid a sea of mediocre strikers. However, with an increasing amount of game time under his belt, I can only envisage Keane going from strength to strength this season. It certainly all bodes well for the rest of the season and his return to United come May.