COMMENT: Could switch to Preston North End be the right move for Bolton Wanderers striker Craig Davies?
CRAIG Davies returns to the Wanderers fold this summer after going close to promotion on loan at Preston, but what does the future hold for the Wales international?
It is fair to say his time with the Whites has not been as fruitful as either he or manager Dougie Freedman would have hoped when he became the Scot’s first permanent signing 18 months ago.
Just nine starts in 28 appearances for the man who cost £300,000 from Barnsley tells its own story. So could Freedman be ready to offload the misfiring frontman?
Much like the situation with another returning striker, Marvin Sordell, the Whites boss will have a decision to make if he gets his main summer target – Lukas Jutkiewicz.
Freedman may even be in the hunt for two striking additions.
That would leave Davies further down the pecking order and it may suit both parties if he were to move on.
The former Manchester City youngster still has 12 months remaining on his contract at Wanderers so it remains to be seen what the reaction would be to any approach.
Preston could well test that out after Davies’ spell with the Lilywhites in the second half of their League One campaign.
There may not have been any solid interest as yet but if their satisfaction on signing him on loan is anything to go by, you would anticipate a return for his services this summer and possibly on a permanent switch, should he be open to that.
After a deal to rejoin his old club Wolves fell through in November, Davies finally moved from the Reebok in the January transfer window on a half-season loan to team up with Simon Grayson’s side.
On his arrival, Grayson labelled him “the complete package” and told the Preston website: “He’s big, he’s strong, he’s powerful and he’s quick.
“He’s got a good touch, puts himself about and he’s obviously a top player.
“He’s played at a higher level and the fact we have been able to sign a player who has been starting at a Championship club shows our intentions.”
Davies scored on his Preston debut against Notts County and went on to net another four, including a hat-trick in a 6-1 victory over Carlisle United in April, after which Grayson enthused: “We brought Craig Davies to this club because he is a good footballer and the strengths he has got.”
His tally of five for the Lilywhites is one more than his Wanderers total in the previous 12 months.
Grayson obviously sees something he likes in Davies despite not starting him as regularly as the Wales star might have envisaged when he dropped down a division to get first-team football again.
The question is whether he would make that drop again this summer if offered the chance of a longer-term deal?
When he moved to Deepdale, Davies was aiming to prove a point after starting just four matches in the first half of the campaign.
Freedman opted for loan options to fill the void left by Jermaine Beckford’s absence through injury, like Joe Mason from Cardiff and Jutkiewicz.
It left Davies on the sidelines and fitness problems did not help. But he saw Preston as a chance to show what he can do.
Davies told the Lancashire Evening Post: “I wanted to get out on loan to play football and it was great when I heard Preston were interested.
“In December I had a chat with the Bolton manager and he said I might need to go out on loan to play games because I had been injured for about three months.
“The last thing I wanted to do was to go back to the bench. I know I’m better than that and I have told him (Freedman) that I’m better than that.
“I want to show everyone that I can still do what I was doing at Barnsley before the move to Bolton.
“I have got another year left at Bolton after this and plan to go back in the summer, but things change in football.
“One minute you are one place, the next minute you are somewhere else.”
It seems Davies may well be open to a Whites departure, particularly if Freedman does add to his firepower this summer.
The fact Wanderers are openly pursuing additions to their frontline may indicate their stance with regards Davies being first-choice up front.
The ball may now be in Preston’s court.