Preston North End new boy Chuks Aneke is happy to have swapped the comfort zone of Arsenal’s reserves for the physical challenge of League One.
The 18-year-old striker netted on his debut as North End were held to a 1-1 draw by Bury at Deepdale.
Aneke’s 68th-minute deflected shot looked to have given Graham Westley’s side victory, only for Shakers substitute Lateef Elford-Alliyu to equalise in stoppage time.
This is the teenager’s second loan spell away from the Gunners, Westley having taken him to Stevenage earlier in the season.
He’s looking to gain plenty of experience in PNE’s final eight games to help him climb the ladder further at the Emirates Stadium.
Aneke told the Evening Post: “I joined Arsenal when I was seven and have made my way through the youth system to the reserves.
“Now I need first-team games to maybe help me push into the first-team squad at Arsenal.
“You get to a certain point when playing in the reserves all the time isn’t as beneficial, and the next step is to go out on loan.
“League One is really physically, quite different to what I’m used to playing in Arsenal’s reserves.
“There’s the importance that you’re playing for league points – you’re fighting every week for those three points.
“Of course you want to win when you play in the reserves, but the result isn’t always as important. I’m really pleased to be at Preston, I want to help the club get more points and put a run together in this last part of the season.
“It all happened quickly on loan deadline day. The gaffer rang me up on Thursday morning and asked if I fancied coming up.
“I made the decision straight away, jumped in the car and got here.
“The gaffer must have seen something in me at Stevenage that he liked, so I’m happy he’s now brought me to Preston.”
Aneke got a helping hand from Efe Sodje with the goal, his shot deflecting off the veteran Bury centre-half to wrong-foot keeper Trevor Carson.
But the youngster was just happy to see it go in and his aim is to feature on the scoresheet again.
England Under-19s international Aneke said: “There was a bit of luck with the goal – it was a jammy one with the shot getting a nick off the defender.
“A goal is a goal though, so I’m really pleased – they all count.
“It was a good experience playing in front of the Preston fans. I thought I started the game well and just wanted to pick up the pace as quickly as possible. I’m confident that I’ll get used to the pace and be ready to have a real go in the games ahead.
“With the goal, I was just lingering on the edge of the box, willing the ball would come to me.
“When it did, I hit it with my left foot – my ‘swinger’ – and in it went off the defender.
“I just wish it had been the winner. Three points would have capped off my debut nicely. It was so disappointing to concede the equaliser right at the end.”
North End lost Barry Nicholson in the 18th minute, the midfielder pulling up with a hamstring strain.
PNE boss Westley said: “It could be a week or two, or Baz could be out for five or six weeks. We won’t know until it settles down and he can get it scanned.”