Exclusive Alex Baptiste PNE column

Challenging in the air with Cardiff striker Rickie Lambert

Challenging in the air with Cardiff striker Rickie Lambert

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My move to Preston from Middlesbrough shows how quickly things can change in football.

As a player, you have to be ready to make new plans at the drop of a hat.

I had been on the bench at Middlesbrough for the first couple of Premier League games, then wasn’t involved in the squad on the Saturday before the deadline.

On the Sunday, I spoke to Steve Thompson at Brett Ormerod’s testimonial and there was the mention of the interest from Preston.

The next day, the talk was of Middlesbrough bringing in Callum Chambers on loan from Arsenal and that one eventually got done.

That allowed my move here to start happening and all of a sudden I was arranging to move out of a rented house in Middlesbrough and move my family back to this area.

That is part and parcel of being a footballer and I am so happy to be here.

Hopefully we can start to pick up points regularly and climb the table. It was good to get the win on Tuesday night against Cardiff and it was one we thoroughly deserved after a good display.

We had played well last week against Barnsley and deserved a point at least.

Unfortunately, it was not to be and we suffered a home defeat.

I made a mistake for their second goal – I should have done better.

Maybe because I had not played for a little while, I was caught out a bit.

Saying that, Adam Armstrong did really well – but I’m an honest lad and I should have been better.

It was good that we had the game on Tuesday night so I didn’t need to dwell on what happened in the Barnsley match.

To go on and keep a clean sheet against Cardiff was very pleasing.

For a defender to keep a clean sheet is the equivalent of a striker scoring a goal.

On the subject of scoring, every credit to my defensive partner Tom Clarke for the one which found the net on Tuesday night.

What a great finish that was – I couldn’t believe it!

I had stayed back and my first thought when he was up in the box was why Tom was still there after the corner had been cleared?

He challenged the keeper well, then to swivel and hit the ball with his ‘wrong’ foot , was unbelievable.

It was quite a tight angle and there were people running back to try and cover the line, who he needed to get the ball over.

Tom deserved the man of the match award, not just for his goal, but for the way he defended.

The other two goals were very good as well.

Callum Robinson’s was a great shot with his weaker foot, then Jordan Hugill bent one into the top corner after coming inside off the left wing.

The aim is to try and follow that up with another good result against Brentford this weekend.

That is always a hard ground to play at but we go there with plenty of confidence.

Something I have noticed at Preston is the team spirit and closeness of the squad.

A good spirit and a feeling of togetherness is massive in the Championship.

The league is an absolute grind, it is a long season with plenty of the games being close together.

I’m convinced a strong spirit can give you 10 points over the course of a season and what a difference that can make.

Earlier, I mentioned Steve Thompson and how I had seen him in the days leading up to the move here.

I have known Tommo and the gaffer from the days of old at Blackpool – it was the gaffer who signed me.

It was quite a while since I had worked with Tommo but we remained close and kept in touch.

Over the last few years, we’ve had the odd game of golf and he was a familiar face when I arrived.

Tommo has been brilliant with me and played a big part in my game developing.

He knows my game inside out and I know exactly he coaches.

On the training pitch, he was always encouraging me and working on my game.

Sometimes we would argue but what he was telling me was always for the best.

Here at Preston, Tommo, the gaffer and Glynn Snodin are out on the pitch for 
every session, working with the players on different 
things.

Tommo and Snods do a lot of work with the defenders when we divide up and do specific work on our positions.

The gaffer quite often goes and works with the strikers.

There is a really good work ethic among the players and staff – we are always striving to do better.

In terms of the future, I am just concentrating on this season and doing whatever I can to help Preston do well.

After this season, I have a year left on my Middlesbrough contract.

I have to say that Boro are 
a fantastic club, it was just very unfortunate that I got that bad injury so soon after I signed for them last year.

It meant I wasn’t able to play a part in their promotion from the Championship last season.

For the first couple of games this season, it was nice to be back in the squad.

Hopefully, Middlesbrough can stay up in the Premier League this season.

For Preston and Boro to both have good seasons, would make me very happy.