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Northern Ireland ace Ali McCann urged to keep working on his game as Preston boss Ryan Lowe deploys him at wing-back

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Ali McCann has been utilised at wing-back during Preston’s pre-season programme

Ali McCann has been utilised at wing-back during Preston’s pre-season programme

Ali McCann hasn't been a regular in the Preston team

Ali McCann hasn't been a regular in the Preston team

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Ali McCann has been utilised at wing-back during Preston’s pre-season programme

Ali McCann has been told to work on his versatility to nail down a starting berth at Preston North End.

The Northern Ireland utility man is desperate to play in central midfield but the Championship side are strong in that area.

Preston boss Ryan Lowe knows McCann has the skills-set to adapt to different roles and has used him as a right wing-back in pre-season.

“We are working with him on a daily basis and he’s finding a new position for himself in terms of how we play,” said Lowe.

“He can play as a two in midfield, he can play as an eight, he can also play as a wing-back.

“We have a lot of quality in central midfield, but Ali doesn’t go unnoticed. What he lacks in quality, he makes up for in other areas.

“If I feel a role suits him for a job in the team but one he might not necessarily prefer, I still know he will play anywhere for me or his country because he wants to play.”

McCann has impressed as a box-to-box midfielder, but his lack of a cutting edge has been a concern, scoring just once last term. But his pace and energy could find a natural home as a wing-back and his goal against Leicester City in pre-season hinted at the potential.

Lowe added: “Sometimes it’s tough if you can play various positions because the manager always sees you as a utility player, but what I see in Ali McCann is a quality player getting better all the time.

“His energy, commitment and desire is fantastic. He’s everything I want in a player.”

McCann joined the Lilywhites last season after playing a starring role for St Johnstone in their domestic Cup double campaign of 2020/21. But he made only 16 League starts and Lowe knows there is still lots of room for improvement.

He added: “I am expecting him to keep pushing to forge his way into the team.

“I have told Ali what I have told all the boys. Yes, I pick the team, but it’s up to you guys to make me put you in the starting XI.

“He is still young and I know there is loads still to come from Ali. He is constantly learning.”

McCann might still need some convincing of his role in the team but, after prolonged periods out of the side last term, his priority is to get more game time.

“I can’t complain because it gets me on the pitch,” said the 22-year-old.

“I have played there (right wing-back) a few times now. It’s a bit different to midfield, but I’m happy to do a job for the team.”

And his early summer on Nations League duty for his country could help him hit the ground running for the new campaign.

“I had an extra week off because of the internationals, but I didn’t lose any fitness,” added McCann, who won the first of his eight caps against Austria in 2020. “The shorter summer break isn’t an issue for me. I had two weeks off before joining Northern Ireland and two weeks afterwards. Getting more caps was brilliant. I am raring to go.”


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