PNE must step up to the plate in Championship – Welsh

John Welsh

John Welsh

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John Welsh is confident that Preston can handle the step-up to the Championship.

The midfielder had a taste of English football’s second tier during his time with Hull and a return to that level excites him.

PNE’s preparations for the new campaign start a week tomorrow when the players report back for pre-season training.

Welsh has been busy in the gym to make sure he hits the ground running, spurred on by the challenge which lies ahead.

“A look through the fixture list fills you with excitement,” Welsh told the Evening Post.

“When I’ve been working in the gym or doing a run, thinking about the games gives you that extra spring.

“The Championship is a really tough league, with some big teams and good players.

“We have to be better than last season, both attacking and defensively – up our game that extra 10-20 per cent.

“In order to get promoted in May, we had to up our game from the year before.

“You’ve always got to strive to improve and we will be aiming to finish as high as possible in the season ahead.

“When you look through the fixture list, Hull is one of the games which stands out from a personal point of view.

“I haven’t been back since I left and it will be nice to see everyone there.

“Burnley and Leeds are two others which catch my eye, while there are some grounds I haven’t played at before.”

Although Wembley is still fresh in his mind, Welsh knows that once pre-season training starts, the focus has to be on the campaign ahead rather than what has gone on before.

His reward for playing a key role in promotion – he made 44 appearances last term – was a new two-year contract.

Said Welsh: “Wembley has never been far from my mind during the summer.

“My medal is on the mantle piece and thinking about the final puts a smile on my face.

“It was the first time I had played at Wembley and it wasn’t a bad first appearances was it?

“I’ve enjoyed the summer break, had a couple of holidays with my family and now I’m working through the fitness programme we were given.

“Our fitness coach Tom Little wants us all back in good shape so that we can start with the hard work straight away.

“Sticking to the programme gives you a good base and can help with the injury-prevention side of things.

“As you go through your career, the approach to fitness tends to change a bit.

“After my first season here, the instructions were to get four or five weeks rest and not do very much.

“The fitness programme we have had this time has had us working for quite a bit.”

l North End have released ticket prices for four of their pre-season friendlies.

Seats for the Hearts game at Deepdale on Saturday, July 18 will cost £10 adults, £7.50 Over-65s and £5 Under-16s.

Admission to the visit to Bamber Bridge on July 14 is £7 adults and £4 concessions, while Under-12s will be free is accompanied by an adult.

Southport away on July 21 is £8 adults and £5 concessions, and the visit to Ashington on July 29 is £4 and £2.