Exclusive Alan Browne PNE column

Shielding the ball from Norwich striker Cameron Jerome on Easter Monday
Shielding the ball from Norwich striker Cameron Jerome on Easter Monday
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To see my Preston North End team-mate and room-mate Greg Cunningham fracture his leg in the Easter Monday game against Norwich was gutting.

It happened on the back of Tom Clarke suffering that serious Achilles injury a few days earlier and to see them both hurt wasn’t nice.

They are big characters in our dressing room and two fantastic lads, so will both be missed in these last three games of the season.

Greg shouldn’t actually miss too much football, as he is expected back in time for the start of next season but Clarkey is obviously going to be a lot longer.

It isn’t good for Greg to have broken his leg but at least most of his rehab 
time will be in the close season.

Does it mean I’m going to get a new room-mate for the last couple of away games?

No – I’m going to stay loyal to Greg and hopefully get the room to myself, look forward to when he is back and being able to enjoy a laugh and joke on away trips.

The first of those games without Greg is the trip to Newcastle United.

That is a big test for us and a game to look forward to.

St James’ Park does not hold good memories for me as I got a red card when we played there in the EFL Cup in October and we all know what the result was.

It is the same referee on Monday as it was that night so hopefully it won’t be a case of deja-vu.

We know it is going to be tough at Newcastle – there will be a big atmosphere with them going for mpromotion.

We have to be ‘at it’ and right defensively, while at the other end hopefully we can break them down.

You could argue that we can go there with a bit of freedom and licence to play, bearing in mind the pressure will be on Newcastle with them close to promotion.

We have players who can hurt teams – Aiden McGeady, Tommy Barkhuizen, Callum Robinson – they are great lads going forward.

Give them the ball and they can really make things happen.

As long as we are right defensively and stay in the game, we know that we have a chance.

We played Newcastle at Deepdale straight after the big cup defeat and the team did much better.

Being suspended, I had to watch the game from the stand and I thought that we deserved something out of the game.

A few decisions went against us towards the end 
of the game, had they gone for us we could have got a draw.

Back to the present day and we go to Newcastle on the back of three defeats in a row, which isn’t like us.

We lost three on the bounce at the start of the season when we were looking for the right team and balance.

Once we found those things, we put together a 
run which took us quite 
close to nicking a play-off position.

The last three results meant that was not to be and maybe if we had started the season a bit better, we might still have been in and around the top six.

It is not like us to lose three on the bounce and we don’t want it to become four at St James’ Park – I cannot remember that happening in my time here.

We are approaching the end of my third full season here – I also had that 
half-season after I first signed from Cork City in early 2014.

I’ve enjoyed this season, the gaffer has given me an opportunity to play and I have learned a lot.

He and the coaching staff are always advising and encouraging me, working on things to improve my game.

It is good to have people like that around me and it helps with my confidence.

Hopefully we can finish the season strongly – that can give us something to build on for next year.

Away from football, and quite a few of the lads here have pet dogs – I have a French bulldog called Dave!

I’ve had him just over a year and he’s good company about the house.

I didn’t want a typical dog’s name for him and I just felt Dave suited him.

If you saw him and what type of character he is, you’d see why.

He is quite a relaxed dog who will jump on to the sofa and chill out with you.

But Dave is quite lively, to say the least, when someone he doesn’t know calls round.

Jordan Hugill has got two sausage dogs, the two Danish lads Anders Lindegaard and Simon Makienok have dogs, Marnick Vermijl does and so has our goalkeeper coach Alan Kelly.

So we are quite a dog-friendly team.