Good omen for Dan’s PNE debut

New recruit Daniel Johnson at North End's Springfields training ground this week

New recruit Daniel Johnson at North End's Springfields training ground this week

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If there is a good omen for Preston North End new boy Daniel Johnson ahead of this debut this weekend it is the fact that Crawley provide the opposition.

The 22-year-old had spells on loan with Chesterfield and Oldham earlier in the season as he was given his first-team wings after coming through the Aston Villa junior ranks.

He scored on his Oldham bow against Crawley in November, one of three goals for Latics.

Finding the net in a North End shirt at Broadfield Stadium would get his time with the club off to the perfect start.

Johnson said: “I would love to be involved on Saturday after being cup-tied for the two games earlier this week.

“I played against Crawley for Oldham a couple of months ago, it was my debut actually and I scored that day which was great.

“Hopefully I can score this time but the main thing is we get the three points.

“The first few days here have been really good. The boys have made me feel welcome and the training has been good.

“Having to watch the games has been a bit frustrating, I just wanted to be out there playing.”

Johnson joined North End for an undisclosed fee from Villa last Friday night, putting pen to paper on a two-and-a-half year deal.

His arrival is intended to give the midfield some creativity, an element which has been lacking somewhat in recent weeks.

Those earlier loan stays with Chesterfield and Oldham showed that he has what it takes to play at this level.

In September, Preston saw at close quarters what he is capable of, Johnson a key figure in Chesterfield’s fightback from 3-0 down to 3-3 at Deepdale.

“Those loan spells really did me good,” said Johnson.

“I didn’t really know much about League One before going to Chesterfield but I got to grips with it and enjoyed it.

“The lads and staff there were top class and Oldham after that was really good too.

“There is a lot of difference between Under-21s and senior football.

“Once you start playing in the league, your age doesn’t matter, the other teams treat you like any other player.

“You have to grow up quickly, you are not seen just as a young lad learning about the game, as you are in the Under-21s.”

The deal which brought him from Villa Park to Deepdale was done in the blink of an eye compared to how long some transfers can take.

Said Johnson: “I was at home on the Thursday night when I got a text from my agent.

“The text basically said that I wouldn’t be going to train at Villa the next day, instead I would be going up to Preston.

“Villa and Preston had done a deal and it was a case of getting up here to talk about it.

“This was the type of move I needed – I wanted to get back playing after the loans.

“I spent a lot of time talking to the manager here on Friday, he was very positive about what the aims for the club were.

“Then once the terms were agreed I had the medical and got everything signed.

“I had a chat with Callum Robinson too because obviously he was here on loan.

“Callum said, ‘Go for it’ and could not speak more highly of the club and his time here.

“What was good was that I had played here for Chesterfield earlier in the season and had seen the stadium.

“I knew this was a strong team because Preston went 3-0 up in 25 minutes – I had never known anything like it.”

Villa had been Johnson’s home for the last few years although he did not get a chance to play at first-team level.

In October 2012 he had a short spell on loan at Yeovil and then his stays with Chesterfield and Oldham added another 20 games to his CV.

Johnson said: “I was at Villa for six or seven years – I came through the age groups there.

“After being out on loan, I went back to Villa and wasn’t really involved. I was just training or even doing stuff on my own at times to keep ticking over.

“After a while I had a chat with my family and agent and said just doing that was not doing me much good.

“I needed to be playing regularly and this move gives me a great opportunity to do that.

“I know what League One is about – it can be tough going. When you first come, the big change is the Saturday-
Tuesday-Saturday run of 
games.

“Your body has to get used to it, you quickly realise that you have to make changes to your lifestyle, what you are eating and knowing to have plenty of rest.

“I have left behind a great club in Aston Villa – they are one of the biggest clubs in the country.

“But I know I have joined a fine club in Preston – if I didn’t think we could be successful, I would not be here.

“I genuinely believe that we can be playing Championship football next season.

“Talking to the other lads here, promotion has been the aim since the start of the season and that hasn’t changed.

“The lads have told me they have been going through a bit of a tough patch and have dropped a few points.

“But there is a confidence they can recapture their form.”