In the first of a short series where we get the lowdown on our loanees from the supporters who’ve been watching them this past season, Preston North End fan Daniel Birkett reviews Matt James’ spell at Deepdale…
The appointment of Darren Ferguson at Preston and a promise of a better brand of football meant it was music to Preston fans’ ears when it was announced that we were bringing in two highly-rated Man United youngsters. Welbeck was the more exciting name with a few Premiership appearances under his belt, but it was Matty James who went on to make a name for himself at Deepdale.
In a side devoid of any quality or fight it was refreshing to see two youngsters in James and Paul Coutts, the Scottish Under 21 international signed from Peterborough, replace the invisible men we had to put up with all season. A debut goal from James within 10 minutes was enough to make the fans think “we’ve got a good’un” as well as a number of full blooded tackles and a brilliant range of passing, making it hard to believe he’s only 18.
He formed a good partnership with Coutts at the back end of the season and had us playing football on the deck and showing a bit of passion for a change. He struggled at times obviously and admitted himself the pace of Championship football surprised him but he coped well. After being on the receiving end of a few crunching tackles and chasing a few shadows at times you could see him developing game by game. With so much responsibility put on a 21 year old and an 18 year old we were always going to struggle at times, especially away from home, but the pair of them stepped up when it mattered and looked like Championship veterans on occasion. In comparison to David Jones – who we had on loan from United a few seasons ago – their games are at a similar level but of course James is 2 or 3 years younger than Jones (who is now plying his trade in the Premiership) was, so that’s a promising sign.
He’s a long way to go but he has all the attributes and talent to succeed at any level as far as I’m concerned – with his thumping shot and fantastic passing ability its hard not to compare his game to that of Paul Scholes, but that said James is probably a better tackler. His goal against Nottingham Forest was as good a strike as you’ll ever see, getting the ball out of his feet quickly and hitting an absolute rocket into the top corner from 30 yards. I think Matty can play a huge role for us next season on his year long loan – it’s been a long time since we had a potential 10 goal a season midfielder running things in the centre of the park. I’m predicting him grabbing a few headlines next season and having a few goals of the season contenders, I for one am delighted we’ve got him for another year.