PNE star John is looking beyond 150

John Welsh

John Welsh

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Out of John Welsh’s 150 appearances in a Preston North End shirt, it will not come as a surprise that one in particular really stands out.

The play-off final victory over Swindon at Wembley is an occasion which Welsh has got constant reminders of, from pictures on the wall at home to the highlights on his mum’s new television.

“When you come to New Year, you look back and get flashbacks about certain things,” Welsh told the Evening Post.

“Wembley is the one which immediately sticks out and is a day I will always remember.

“My house is covered with pictures from the final – the key moments and all of the celebrations.

“They are a constant reminder, mind you, I can’t remember too much about the night!

“It wasn’t just about the day of the final, we went down as a squad a couple of days before, had a look at the stadium and were then in the hotel together.

“Then there was the time with the family immediately afterwards before we joined together as a squad to travel back up here – that is when it gets a bit hazy.

“Over Christmas, I went to my mum’s house and she had got a new television.

“My two brothers were round watching the YouTube highlights of Wembley, so it was nice to have another watch of them.”

Wembley was Welsh’s 132nd game for North End, with the 150th being against Hull City on Monday.

That was a special occasion for three reasons – the fact that PNE won, it was against his former club and he also made a dramatic goalline clearance in stoppage-time.

“To play 150 games for this great club is something I’m very proud of,” said Welsh.

“I have thoroughly enjoyed the last three-and-a-half years and here’s to the next 150.

“I’ve always been ready to play in my time here, I’m not one who wants a rest – my job is to play football.

“It was nice that my 150th appearance came against one of my former clubs.

“Actually, I didn’t know it was that many until someone told me after the game.

“I suppose the clearance I made right at the end will be something a lot of people will remember the game for.

“It just happened in a split second, it was just a case of clearing it and then getting the ball out of the box.

“The Hull lads were saying it had gone in but we have a camera behind the goal which our analyst Alistair Lishman uses – I have seen the footage and the ball didn’t go over.

“We probably should have been out of sight by then because we had created a lot of chances.

“As it was, we were hanging in there towards the end.

“Sometimes though, winning like that makes it a bit sweeter.

“Everyone was pumped up, fans and players alike, and the reaction at the final whistle was brilliant.

“That game is over, we now have our attention on playing against Rotherham here on Saturday afternoon.

“That will be a tough game, it doesn’t matter where they are in the division.

“Rotherham work hard and will probably look to get it from back to front quite quickly.

“If we keep the same work rate and stick to the shape of the team, match the levels we did against Hull, then we can be a match for anybody.”

North End arrive in 2016 in 17th place in the table, having collected 28 points from their 24 games.

That is decent going when you consider the sticky run of form in September and the fact they were briefly bottom of the Championship after the October international break.

Welsh thinks that a further push up the table is well within PNE’s capabilities.

The 31-year-old said: “The performances this season have been good generally, even if we haven’t won, we have tended to play well with the odd exception.

“As a squad, we have proved that we can play at this level and we have all enjoyed it.

“We have always got things to work on, areas where we can improve – we know the level where we have to be at.

“When we first came back for pre-season training in the summer, we kept being asked where did we expect to finish?

“It was hard to give an answer because we were just focused on the first game and trying to get something out of that one.

“We take one game at a time, that might be a cliche but it’s how we operate.

“It is about building layers, learning from each game and taking that into the next one.

“A couple of wins could take us up into the top half of the table and the aim is to push on and try and do that.

“We have got this game against Rotherham at home and then we have a couple of away matches coming up.

“Take the Huddersfield game out of the equation and I think we are in good form.”

Reflecting on his time at North End, Welsh is pleased to have made the move.

He joined on a Bosman at the end of his contract at Tranmere, being part of the summer revolution of 2012 when the PNE squad was given a major overhaul.

Said Welsh: “I’ve always been happy here.

“Everyone knew what the regime was like under Graham Westley but even then I enjoyed coming into work and being part of the club.

“There have of course been ups and downs with certain results – Rotherham in the play-offs a couple of years ago and then Colchester on the final day of last season.

“But those occasions are eclipsed by some many good memories such as Wembley, or my debut for Preston or my first goal here.

“My aim is to go on and play many more games here, help the club establish themselves as a Championship side and get higher in the table. That is a great challenge to have.”