Jordan Hugill always plays with a smile on his face.
Working behind a bar not so long ago as he plied his trade in the semi-professional game, the front man could be forgiven for having a broader grin than usual after the week he has had.
A stunning 20-yard curler capped PNE’s 3-0 win over Cardiff in fine style on Tuesday, with the 24-year-old’s new three-year contract announced 24 hours later.
Being an established Championship player is something the former Whitby Town and Marske United striker could only have dreamed of at one stage.
“You see me come into training every day and I’ve always got a smile on my face,” said Hugill.
“It’s because four years ago I was working behind a bar. There’s nothing more I can say.
“I’m just loving being here, loving playing football, and doing what I’ve wanted to do since I was a kid.”
The new deal comes only 12 months after the last one and is reward for a breakthrough year at Deepdale.
“It’s been a really good year,” said Hugill, who has spent time on loan with Tranmere and Hartlepool.
“I think I’ve done well since I signed my last contract.
“I’ve worked really hard and got myself in a good position which has been rewarded with another contract.
“It’s brilliant news for me.
“I’m comfortable now, I can relax a bit more but there’s still a lot of hard work to go.”
The powerful front man is still young in professional terms, having come through non-league before moving to Port Vale and then PNE in the summer of 2014.
Hugill feels he has developed a lot in the last 12 months, scoring five times in 32 appearances last season.
“Towards the back end of last year I was playing really well,” said the Middlesbrough-born striker.
“I came away from the season thinking I’ve got to give myself a good chance if I want to play this season.
“I worked really hard over pre-season and it’s put me in the position that I am now.”
That position is one where he is in the thick of the battle to fill the void left by Joe Garner’s departure to Rangers.
Hugill is vying for a place along with Jermaine Beckford, Eoin Doyle, Simon Makienok and Callum Robinson, with Stevie May also on the road to recovery after his serious knee injury.
“There’s a lot of good competition up there,” he said.
“When someone like Joe goes you’ve got to look at it as an opportunity for someone else.
“Someone’s going to have to take his place.
“There’s are a good few strikers and it’s just whoever keeps the shirt now.”
Performances like the one on Tuesday night will have done his cause no harm, Hugill leading the line with his usual endeavour before popping up with a stunning third goal as PNE won at home for the first time since February.
“I knew I would get a chance, the gaffer’s been saying to me that I’d get my chance this year,” he said.
“I was just being patient and when chance came I knew I’d go for it and be ready to take it.”
The goal was not a typical Hugill effort, a fine strike from outside the area bending into the top corner, leaving Ben Wilson with no chance in the Cardiff net.
“I think it’s the best goal I’ve scored.” he said. “They’re usually tap ins or headers but I can hold on to that one for a while. I’ve not stopped watching it for ages.
“It gets better every time I see it and it gets further out, I was telling my mam it was almost from the halfway line!”
Hugill’s cause was arguably helped by Simon Grayson deploying a 4-4-2 formation, Doyle also playing up top, with Robinson and Aiden McGeady wide.
“I’ll play however the gaffer wants me to play – as long as I’m in that team I don’t mind,” said Hugill.
“I think as a striker you want to be up there, you don’t want to be isolated at all. When balls like that are coming in the box, especially with the quality Aiden McGeady and Callum Robinson can put in, there are going to be all kinds of problems for defenders.”
The win was a welcome one for North End as, after several near misses, things really came together against the Bluebirds.
Now it is a case of replicating that at Brentford on Saturday.
“It was a really encouraging performance against Barnsley,” said Hugill. “I think we played really, really well but we were a bit unlucky.
“We just got hit on the counter-attack which was unfortunate. But Tuesday night proved that we have been working hard and they are the performances that we can give.
“Now we’ve got a bit more momentum behind us it will be good to take it into Saturday.”
It was also hopefully just the start for Hugill as he looks to make himself a fixture in Grayson’s plans.
He said: “Tuesday night was just a start for me. There’s a lot of hard work to go and I want to keep improving.
“I want to keep these performances going and scoring goals.”