Greg has set the PNE bar high

Greg Cunningham
Greg Cunningham
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Preston North End’s player of the year Greg Cunningham will not rest on his laurels as he sets his goals for the new season.

The defender enjoyed a fine first term in PNE colours, starting all but three of their Championship games.

Cunningham was voted player of the year by both fans and team-mates.

Soon, the hard work starts to prepare for the 2016/17 campaign, with the Lilywhites squad back for pre-season training a fortnight tomorrow.

And the Irishman realises that the bar is set high in terms of expectation for both himself and the team.

Cunningham told the Evening Post: “I was so happy with how my first season went.

“I was delighted that we got the 11th place finish and then from a personal view, to win the two awards was the icing on the cake.

“That has put a marker down for the new season, as a team we need to keep moving in the right direction and pushing forward.

“I cannot be resting on my laurels and we all need to be ready to push on.

“As a new season gets closer, you set yourself new goals and I’m looking forward to it.

“Looking back at last season, there were many highlights.

“I would say that one of them was scoring the winner against my former club Bristol City in January.

“From a team point of view, for us to have finished 11th after getting promoted into the division, was the high point.”

The Championship looks an even tougher proposition in the campaign ahead.

Newcastle, Aston Villa and Norwich will be looking for a swift return to the Premier league after relegation.

The sides who were in and around the play-offs last time will have their sights set on being up there again.

Said Cunningham: “It is going to be a tough division but that is the type of challenge you want as a player.

“You have got big-named clubs, players and managers which shows the calibre this division can attract.

“It is not too long until we come back to training.

“I’m away for some sun and golf at the moment but I’ve got my summer fitness programme to do too.

“It involves some running and weights work, lighter stuff to start off it but it has gradually got harder.

“The work you do to keep ticking over during the break is vital for when you come back for pre-season training.”

Cunningham has enjoyed watching the opening few days of the Euros, with the Republic of Ireland’s 1-1 draw with Sweden on Monday of special interest.

The 25-year-old made three provisional Irish squads during the course of last season, only to miss out on the final cut.

“I thought we played very well against Sweden and probably deserved a bit more,” said Cunningham.

“We are in a tough group, Italy looked very impressive in beating Belgium.

“The game against Belgium next is obviously a huge one.”