PNE striker’s feet on the ground

Jordan Hugill in action for Preston against Sheffield Wednesday before the international break

Jordan Hugill in action for Preston against Sheffield Wednesday before the international break

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If there is anything which keeps Preston striker Jordan Hugill’s feet firmly on the floor, it is the memories of his non-league days.

In particular, cold and foggy nights on the North Yorkshire coast playing for Marske United.

Hugill was a latecomer to the full-time game, his breakthrough coming as a 21-year-old.

After a season at Port Vale, he joined North End in June 2014 and despite a few setbacks, is now nicely establishing himself in the first-team picture.

With a new contract signed yesterday, life feels good for the likeable front man.

There is a good chance of him starting this weekend’s clash with Cardiff City at Deepdale.

Hugill is one of three strikers available along with Stevie May and Will Keane, tomorrow’s game one which Joe Garner and Eoin Doyle must sit out.

Garner serves the second of a three-match suspension, while Doyle is not allowed to face his parent club.

This could be a chance for Hugill to really push his claim.

Three years ago, Hugill had just joined Marske in the Northern League.

Recovering from knee surgery, it was a way back into the game and a chance to play regular football.

“It was a cold place on a Tuesday night in winter, close to the sea with the fog coming in,” Hugill told the Evening Post.

“Something like that makes you what you are – that spell at Marske prepared me for a lot more than if I hadn’t have gone.

“I played non-league from the age of 16, then after returning from the Glenn Hoddle Academy in Spain, I did my cruciate ligament.

“Once I recovered from that, I needed a club to help me get fit and just get me playing some regular football again.

“I went there until the end of the 2012/13 season, then that summer I got the move to Port Vale. Marske was about 15 minutes drive from home and that really suited me.

“There were a few good players in the Northern League but it was game-time which I was there for, a chance to enjoy my football after the injury.

“It might not have been professional standard but it was 90 minutes and prepared me for the next stage of my career.”

Hugill, 23, has certainly had his fill of ups-and-downs since coming to Preston.

A knee injury sustained in the same game he got a red card in at Walsall, meant he missed four months of last season.

He regained his fitness in loan spells at Tranmere and Hartlepool, Hugill’s goals helping keep Pools in the Football League.

In August, another dismissal at MK Dons sidelined him for three matches. Just back from that, Hugill suffered a knee injury in a Lancashire Senior Cup game against Everton at Southport.

At the time he feared it was serious but thankfully his absence was under a fortnight.

Said Hugill: “I definitely thought it was a bad one.

“I did the cruciate in my other knee so I knew what a bad injury was.

“It just didn’t feel right, I was telling the physio on the pitch that I couldn’t really move my leg.

“A few days down the line it began getting better and I didn’t have to go for a scan.

“Your knees do take a lot of strain as a footballer and mine certainly seem to.

“Our physio Matt Jackson says it is to do with my ‘long limbs’ that I get knee injuries.”

Hugill has steadily been working his way into contention at North End.

Before the international break, he and Doyle put in lively displays as substitutes against Sheffield Wednesday.

In the two games before that, Hugill came off the bench to good effect, scoring in the Capital One Cup tie with Bournemouth.

It could be that his first league start for Preston is close. Looking ahead to Cardiff’s visit, Hugill said: “It should be a good game, it will be tough but we will be up for it.

“We’ve got six games coming up before the next break and a little run of results can push you up the table quite quickly.

“We have been working hard during the international 
break and now go into the 
games with some good work behind us.

“It’s been both tactical work and physical training that we have done.

“The gaffer gets across his tactical points and the puts in the physical stuff.

“Last week we had a bounce game at Blackburn in which Eoin Doyle scored a hat-trick.

“It was good to play up front with him because we had not played together too much.

“Eoin is a very good player, he knows how to read a game and is a very good finisher.

“He cannot play against Cardiff so he will be raring to go instead at Charlton next week.

“As for my own game, I feel I’m definitely getting better.

“This season started off a bit slowly for me, but since I’ve been back from suspension and my injury, I think I have played quite well. I need to keep working hard and progressing.”