Joel Byrom is certain he has left behind a Preston North End squad good enough for promotion after departing Deepdale to turn his loan at Northampton into a full-time switch.
The midfielder spent the first half of the season on loan with the Cobblers, going there in search of regular football after being very much of the fringes of PNE’s plans.
His North End contract was terminated by mutual consent on Thursday, Byrom straight away joining Northampton on a deal until the end of the campaign.
But he was back to train with Simon Grayson’s squad in the early part of the week between the loan spell ending and him agreeing to go permanently.
That brought home to the 28-year-old the depth and quality of the squad.
Byrom told the Evening Post: “I trained with Preston on Monday and Tuesday, and the strength of the squad really stood out.
“This is the strongest it has been in my time here and I really think this will be the year they get promoted.
“All the lads are pushing each other for a place in the team and that keeps the level of performances high.
“Even though the side has changed quite a lot as the season goes on, it has continued to be strong and that is because the quality is there in every position.
“What you find at Preston is a bunch of lads who are very down to earth.
“There are no big-timers in there and the nature of them is a big reason why they are doing well and why there is every chance of them being successful.”
Byrom arrived at North End as part of Graham Westley’s recruitment drive in the summer of 2012, joining on a Bosman after leaving Stevenage.
He is the first to admit that his time here did not work out in the manner he had hoped but has no regrets about giving it a go.
“As soon as you sign here, you realise how big a club this is,” said Byrom.
“I’ve no regrets about my time with Preston, I made a lot of friends among the players and staff.
“It was good without being great if that makes sense and I was never really a regular.
“Probably my best spell came at the start of last season when I started a few games and scored against Coventry and Walsall in the league.
“I’d been injured when Simon Grayson came in so I was pleased when he gave me my chance and I got a bit of a run in the side.
“When I dropped out of the team it was difficult to get back in and towards the end of last season I went on loan to Oldham for a few games.
“I suppose I had gone a bit stale and that short spell with Oldham gave me that taste for football back.
“When I reported back for pre-season training I knew that I would not be playing much.
“It was a case of getting the pre-season done and then getting sorted out with loan move to play regularly.
“I’ve played 23 games for Northampton and now I’ve signed a deal with them until the end of the season.
“Hopefully I can continue to play well and sort something out for next season.”