Exclusive Chris Maxwell PNE column

Warming up ahead of PNE's game at Birmingham in midweek

Warming up ahead of PNE's game at Birmingham in midweek

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It was a milestone game for myself when I played against Wigan last week – it was my first appearance in the Championship.

I’ve come through the leagues, starting in the Welsh Premier League then in the Conference, League Two and League One.

So to play for Preston in the Championship was a deeply proud moment.

It shows that ifs you put in the hard work, if you believe in yourself, then anything can happen.

My aim is to go further and to help get Preston pushing towards the top end of the league, something which I think we are capable of.

It was down to my brother that I became a goalkeeper – he is five years older than me and was a striker.

In the back garden at home it was pretty much a case of him saying, ‘Get in goals and I’ll take some shots at you’.

My teacher at school put me in the Year 6 team when I was a Year 3 and an early memory was sweeping up behind the defence, chesting the ball over an opposition player and then volleying it downfield.

I signed for Wrexham as a youngster – they were the only professional club I could join at the time because of the one-hour journey time rule.

Wrexham was a 58-minute drive from where we lived so I just squeezed in. All credit to my mum and dad who used to give up their time to drive me up and down the A55 to Wrexham a few times a week.

I did my apprenticeship at Wrexham and in my second year with them, they were relegated from the Football League to the Conference.

Of the 16 apprentices, two of us got offered professional contracts and a condition of getting a deal was that we went straight out of loan.

I was loaned to Connah’s Quay Nomads in the Welsh Premier Division, I was 17 at the time and suddenly found myself playing men’s football after being in the youth team

It was a very physical league, there were guys of 32 and 33 giving up their time and money to play football.

The pre-match meal was in the pub down the road – we had to pay for beans on toast.

Connah’s Quay won 1-0 on my debut but I got absolutely nailed in the game – as I did in most of them.

Playing for Connah’s Quay really made me as a player.

Going out on loan should be something every young player experiences.

At Connah’s Quay, the game against Rhyl was a bit of local derby.

It was played on a Friday night and I was wearing a pink goalkeeper’s kit, which meant I got loads of abuse from the Rhyl fans behind my goal.

There was no segregation at the ground so their fans were also behind my goal in the second half because they changed ends!

I think I won them over as I got a round of applause off them at the final whistle.

After the loan spell, I went back to Wrexham and Dean Saunders gave me my debut for them.

It was Saunders who used to encourage me to pass the ball out and use my feet.

After a couple of changes of manager at Wrexham, I left there to join Fleetwood.

I didn’t play there for six months and went back on loan to Wrexham – we won the FA Trophy and got beaten in the play-off final by Newport.

The following season I went on loan to Cambridge for six months.

They were a really well-run side under Richard Money and there is a comparison to here, in that the players were very together and close-knit.

I went back to Fleetwood and got into their side, playing a long run of consecutive games – 116 I think, maybe more.

At the end of last season, I felt I had done my time with Fleetwood, it was an amazing experience and I will always be thankful to Andy Pilley and Graham Alexander for giving me my chance.

I spoke to a few clubs but once Preston showed their interest, I really wanted to speak to them.

I kept on thinking back to when I played for Fleetwood against Preston at Deepdale.

I was on the losing side that day but I remembered the amazing atmosphere and thought, ‘How good would it be to play here on a regular basis?’

As soon as I knew that the interest was serious, I wanted nothing else.

It was a fantastic feeling when I walked on to the pitch at Deepdale in May to have my picture taken with the scarf.

To make my Preston debut in the cup against Oldham was very special, then to play in the Wigan game was superb.

I would really like to thank the fans for their support against Wigan, for someone who they didn’t know too much about, it was amazing.

There was a short spell when I uncharacteristically kicked a couple of balls out of play and just for a moment, I thought it was getting on top of me a bit.

But it felt like the fans stayed with me and once I got that spell out of the way, I was fine and played normally.

It is a strong squad here and I will work hard to try and stay in the team.

The environment is a very competitive one which is what the manager is looking for to get us up the league.