Preston offer lifeline to Ricketts
Former England international Michael Ricketts is training with Preston and has a chance of earning a contract at Deepdale.
The 28-year-old forward was released by Southend in October after just two appearances for the Championship outfit just over four years after his one and only England appearance, a 45-minute run-out in the 1-1 draw with Holland in February 2002.
Ricketts' career has been on the slide since he left Bolton in a £3million move to Middlesbrough in 2003, having scored 13 goals for Wanderers in his first Premiership season in 2001-2002.
A free transfer to Leeds was followed by loan moves to Stoke, Cardiff and Burnley before he ended up at Roots Hall.
However, North End boss Paul Simpson believes a new slimline Ricketts, fresh from time away in the United States, has the desire to get back into football.
He has been impressed with Ricketts' work in training and is hoping to further assess the striker in a reserve game next week.
Simpson said: 'He's been with us for a week to 10 days. He left Southend because he got frustrated because he'd let himself go a bit, with his fitness and his weight.
'He's been away working with a personal trainer and he's got himself in really good shape.
'He's lost over two stone in weight and he's looking very good at the moment.'
Simpson admits that if Ricketts shows any sign of the form that took the Premiership by storm, he could be offered a deal by the promotion-chasers.
'If he can get back to what he was in his spell at Bolton there would definitely be an interest there,' Simpson continued.
'He seems to have worked hard to get himself to a good level of fitness and we just want to see how he gets on with the football sessions and in a reserve game.
'He definitely has the desire. He got to a situation at Southend he realised the damage he'd done to himself and he's not blaming anyone else.
'He knows it was down to himself and he let himself go. He's really worked hard to get to this level, he's done really well in training and I'm looking forward to seeing him in a game.'