Harrop ready to make an impact at PNE

Harrop in action at Deepdale against Newcastle
Harrop in action at Deepdale against Newcastle
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It is fair to say it has been a frustrating time for Josh Harrop thus far at Preston North End.

The 21-year-old’s summer arrival from Manchester United was one that created plenty of excitement amongst Lilywhites fans.

It came on the back of the Stockport-born forward scoring on his Old Trafford debut as a young Red Devils side saw off Crystal Palace on the final day of the season.

A bright United future was predicted for a player who had scored a hat-trick for the Under 23s the week before.

But knowing it was a key time in his career, Harrop elected to strike out on his own, signing a four-year deal at Deepdale, having turned down a new contract with Jose Mourinho’s side.

The chance of more first-team football was the lure but thus far the England Under-20s team-mate of Callum Robinson has been frustrated by a calf problem.

Now though, on the back of a first Championship appearance off the bench at Leeds, Harrop believes he is ready to be unleashed.

“I came in raring to go and ready to play but the injuries have set me back a bit,” said PNE’s new No.10.

“I picked up one in the first week and then I got back fit and picked up another one.

“In general I’ve settled in great and am really getting on with all the lads.

“I knew a few of them before I got here so it was easy enough.

“I got to know the others quite quickly too, it’s a good group.

“I’m just had to build up my fitness slowly and I think I’m nearly there now.

“I’m excited to get going and am ready to play.”

PNE fans got a taste of what Harrop might offer at Elland Road, the versatile forward brought on for the final 25 minutes after Ben Pearson had been sent off.

His introduction to the Championship saw him show off a different side to his game however.

“It wasn’t the easiest game to come on in,” said Harrop.

“But I’m ready for anything.

“I’m ready to adapt to games and tried to do my best for the team.

“It was more defending than it was attacking in that game.

“It was about getting back in and preventing anything from happening because we had to see the game out.”

That did not stop the new boy from nearly grabbing a dramatic late winner, a deflected shot coming back off the bar in the 95th minute.

“It was unlucky,” Harrop said.

“I wouldn’t have minded it dropping in!

“I was behind it and thought it might but it hit the crossbar.

“It would have been a great start to my career here but maybe it’ll come next time.”

That could be against losing play-off finalists Reading on Saturday with Harrop pushing for a first Preston start.

“I’ve come here to play and that’s my main aim,” he said. 
“Now I’m getting myself fit I need to get myself in the team.

“It’s always hard coming off the bench but I’ve just got to wait, train hard and hopefully get my shot.

“Then I’ve got to try and keep my place in the team.

“I want to play, I want to score, I want to do my best for the team and I want to win games. That’s why I’m here.”

The former United youngster knows reputations count for nothing though and getting the nod from Alex Neil on a regular basis will be easier said than done.

Competition is plentiful in forward positions with Robinson, Tom Barkhuizen, Daniel Johnson and Daryl Horgan amongst those vying for a starting spot.

“The lads have been great,” Harrop said.

“Some of the performances they’ve put in this season have been excellent and it’s only a good thing going forwards.

“We’ve got a good set of lads who are young and hungry with a lot of ability so it’s going to be an exciting season.

“The Championship’s a high standard.

“I’ve watched more than I’ve played so far but from what I’ve seen there’s plenty of football being played, it’s very competitive with both teams going out to win and it’s a good, exciting league with good players in and a lot of teams hungry to get to the Premier League.”

North End’s credentials are being severely tested in the early weeks of the new campaign.

Tuesday night’s disappointing 1-0 defeat against Derby at Pride Park came on the back of impressive performances against Sheffield Wednesday and Leeds United.

There is no let up though with this weekend’s meeting with Reading on home soil followed by a trip to title favourites Middlesbrough before the first international break of the season at the end of the month.

“It couldn’t come any harder,” Harrop said.

“It’s been good for us because it’s been a test to see where we’re at. We’ve stepped up and we’ve shown we’ve got a good team.

“We’ve got a good set of lads and we’re going to be pushing as best as we can to try and win as many games as we can.”

As well as the injuries, Harrop’s unusual start to life at North End included a change of manager.

Having been signed by Simon Grayson, the forward arrived from United for the first day of pre-season training to find out it would be a different man at the helm.

Neil was appointed swiftly and Harrop says the players quickly signed up to the new man’s way of working and know exactly what is expected of them.

“He’s a good manager,” he said. “He’s a very strong character who gets his point across well to the lads.

“Everyone’s working with him well and he’s bouncing off the lads great.

“When someone comes in there’s always that phase of getting to know him but he’s settled in well.

“All the lads are under his wing and he’s helping us a lot.

“He’s a good guy and we know what he wants every game.

“The good start has obviously help ed that and we’re all working well together.”