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Taking on Wolverhampton Wanderers' Conor Coady at Deepdale last Saturday

Taking on Wolverhampton Wanderers' Conor Coady at Deepdale last Saturday

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It has been refreshing for me to go from not playing and being out of the picture at Everton, to coming to Preston and playing in every game I’ve been available for.

The manager has been good, giving me a licence to go and express myself which is what I needed because the last couple of years have been very stop-start.

Before my first game against Barnsley, the gaffer just said to me to go out and play how I was did three or four years ago.

I was thinking, ‘He’s right, that is what I need to do’ and it has been enjoyable.

Within the shape of the team, the manager will give me the freedom to go on the right or left – change over when the time is right.

He also wants me to come inside, not just be standing on the touchline as an out-and-out winger.

Different things will affect when myself and a team-mate decide to swap wings during a game.

For example, you could be defending a corner and when the ball is cleared, it breaks to Callum Robinson who takes the ball up the right wing.

I’ll move over to the left and he will stay on that side for 10 or 15 minutes to see how things go.

Or it could be the manager changing things over because someone is not getting too much joy in their initial starting position.

Against Rotherham before the international break, I was on the right for the first 10 to 15 minutes.

The manager then moved Callum out to the right and put me in the hole.

Soon after that, I chased a long goalkick out to the left and Ben Pringle moved inside to cover where I had been.

Ben just said to me, ‘Do yo fancy staying there for a bit?’ and I spent the next part of the game on the left wing.

Wherever you play across the front, you know you have your defensive work to do when we haven’t got the ball.

The lads here are a good bunch, it’s a great dressing room to be involved in.

The club itself has been great – I see it as something of a sleeping giant.

There are aspirations for Preston to go further and try to push on.

The other week, we were only three points off the play-off positions, now it’s four.

We have played a lot of the top teams, got results against them and have not been played off the park by anyone in a league game.

Preston are the fifth club I’ve played for in my career, and my time spent in Russia with Spartak Moscow stands out as being a bit different.

I enjoyed my time with Spartak and it was very different to over here. A big 
difference for me was the football being regimented compared to how I had known it at Celtic. The coach who signed me was Valeri Karpin who had been a really famous player in Russia.

You would train in the morning, get weighed, see the doctor and then train again later in the day.

Every player had their own room at the training ground where they could sleep and rest between sessions.

It was a good experience, travelling the length and breadth of Russia to play away games.

We had a cup game on a Tuesday night which was 10 hours away.

The furthest we travelled for a league game was a five or six-hour flight.

I had the experience of playing a game in Siberia on a Saturday morning which was four time zones away from Moscow.

The lifestyle over there was really good, Moscow is a huge city and very much on the lines of say London or Paris.

There were some amazing restaurants, good nightlife and shopping.

Like in any country, there might have been places which were behind the times a bit.

But Moscow, Kazan and St Petersburg for example, were big bustling cities.

The traffic in Moscow was bad mind you, sitting in your car for hours trying to get home was pretty normal.

I’m glad I made the choice to go to Russia, there are only a couple of other players from over here who have tried it.

Garry O’Connor was with Lokomotic Moscow for a while and David Bentley had a short loan spell with Rostov when I was over there.