PRESTON North End have emerged as main rivals for Marlon Fossey’s signature this summer.

The Championship club are understood to be one of a handful of second-tier sides interested in the Fulham wing-back, who proved a big hit during a loan spell at the UniBol last season.

Fulham are willing sellers after promotion to the Premier League and had struck an “informal” deal with the Whites when he moved up to Lancashire at the start of the year.

Fossey wants regular first team football after growing out of the development squad game and is known to have enjoyed his time at Bolton, despite his campaign being cut short by a knee injury.

He has 12 months left on his contract at Craven Cottage and though Bolton have made what they consider an acceptable offer, it has become clear in recent weeks that Fulham will not be rushed into a decision.

Preston want a right-sided wing-back as top priority this summer and sources close to the club say Fossey is one of a few options they are currently investigating.

Another one of Fossey’s suitors is believed to be Birmingham City – who had set their sights until recently on Forest Green Rovers’ Kane Wilson.

The out-of-contract defender also has a cluster of Championship sides chasing him at present, and where he ends up could also have a knock-on effect on Fossey’s destination.

Statistically, both players stood out in their respective positions last season, and while Wanderers have by no means been ruled out of the running, the prospect of Championship football and a bigger transfer fee could take the matter out of their hands entirely.

Reports suggest that Derby County have also stolen a march on the Whites’ efforts to sign free agent Tom Barkuizen.

The winger was released by Preston this summer after six seasons with the Lancashire outfit.

Derby are still waiting for clearance to make transfers, as they are currently in an EFL embargo as the final details of Chris Kirchner’s takeover of the club are completed.

League One side are bracing themselves for the Rams to bring a big playing budget to the division, however, despite being stripped down to the bare bones during administration.

Manager Wayne Rooney has said the East Midlands club may need 40 new signings to stock their first team and development squad.