Tom Bayliss’s move from Coventry City to Preston North End for a reported club record fee of between £1.5m and £1.8m was greeted with plenty of excitement from the fans at Deepdale.
PNE have been quite brilliant at finding excellent young talent from the English leagues and the feeling was they’d signed a player with huge potential in the Sky Blues ’ star who’d enjoyed a meteoric rise from the Academy to first team regular.
Joining with 73 senior appearances and nine goals to his name from just one and a half seasons, including playing a key role in City’s League Two promotion campaign via the play-offs, the then teenager appeared to be a perfect fit and ideal man to ease into veteran Paul Gallagher’s boots.
The 34-year-old has been outstanding for the Lilywhites over the years but his playing days will come to an end eventually and the signing of the young midfielder seemed appropriate in that sense
Manager Alex Neil, however, has been careful not to throw young lads in straight away and that’s very much been the case with Bayliss.
Neil, you may recall, was in charge at Norwich City when the Premier League side bought another Sky Blues Academy graduate, James Maddison, and immediately sent him back on loan before continuing his development with a half season loan spell at Aberdeen before getting into the first team at Carrow Road.
“A lot of Preston supporters, given the supposed fee paid for the lad, were confused as to why he wasn’t getting a look in at all which I’m sure the Coventry fans were too,” says, PNE reporter for LancsLive, George Hodgson.
Neil had said from the start that Bayliss was an exciting addition, but he also said a few times that he’d need to learn his trade - the Championship is a sizeable step-up after all.
“He had played four times this season, all in cup competitions, prior to an ankle injury at the start of the year which was a big blow.
“Prior to that, Neil said in his press conference that he had come on a lot and had started to show a real maturity in training within his play.”
The Scot said: “Tom had been training very well and to be fair to him we were talking to him about getting more game time and more involved.
“It’s Sod’s law that when that’s about to happen he rolls his ankle.
“Tom’s been showing all the right traits in the last two weeks, which is why it’s frustrating.”
Hodgson added: “Given the current situation with regards to the season, if it manages to get completed then Bayliss may be in with a shout of featuring.
“He had been near enough ruled out for the rest of the campaign, but that’s of course becoming increasingly irrelevant now.
“Next season is certainly a big one for him and with a full pre-season under his belt, he, and the fans, will hope he can really make his mark and live up to that expectation.”