PNE stars in relaxed mood ahead of Boro clash

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Midfield maestro Daniel Johnson is eager to take centre stage this season.

North End boss Simon Grayson has plenty of engine room options with Johnson, Neil Kilkenny, John Welsh, Alan Browne and Josh Brownhill all featuring during pre-season friendlies.

ALL SMILES: Kyel Reid, Daniel Johnson and Jermaine Beckford

ALL SMILES: Kyel Reid, Daniel Johnson and Jermaine Beckford

The former Aston Villa star revealed that if he gets the nod ahead of Sunday’s Championship opener against Middlesbrough at Deepdale, he will be doing his utmost to keep hold of the shirt.

He said: “First and foremost my goal is to stay in the team. If I get picked that is my opportunity to keep the shirt.

“We don’t know what team the gaffer is going to pick when it comes to Middlesbrough but whatever team he picks, I’m sure that team will be the one which will go out and get the job done.

“And that is what we the players think to.”

Despite not knowing whether he will be in Grayson’s starting XI on Sunday, Johnson is relishing the start of the season and was in relaxed mood at the club’s photoshoot on Monday.

It will be the faormer Chesterfield man’s first shot at the Championship and he accepts that it is not going to be an easy ride but he thinks North End will be successful.

He said: “I’m definitely looking forward to it, we know Middlesbrough are a big team.

“It is going to be a big crowd and I’m sure they will bring a lot of fans down and the atmosphere will be brilliant.

“We know there are some brilliant teams in the Championship, some better all round teams as well.

“We know it is going to be tough but we are all looking forward to it.

“It is going to be a good test and hopefully we will be successful this season.

“I’m looking forward to going to all the grounds because they are all big teams.

“Some of them have come down from the Premier League and some of them have got a lot of history.

“I’m looking forward to going to every ground and hopefully getting a result.”

But Johnson revealed his main aim for the season is that the Lilywhites do well.

He said: “My goal for the season is good performances really, link up with the boys, score a few goals and create opportunities.

“But most importantly the aim is to be successful this season with the team.

“I’m sure the rest of the boys have got the same views as well.”

Johnson praised new striker Will Keane and said there is plenty to come from the young on-loan Manchester United forward.

He said: “Will is brilliant, from the first day he came in we all made him feel welcome and you can see that he has a lot of talent – that will show with time to come.

“Will’s got a lot to show and I’m sure he will push on and show a lot this season.”

The midfielder has managed to snare the ball away from Paul Gallagher during pre-season and take some free-kicks.

And Johnson said he is hoping he’s get more opportunities to whip over some more inviting set pieces.

He said: “I want to be taking more set pieces but I think Gally got the top assists last season for League One but we will share it this season.

“So it is going to be hard to get it off him sometimes!”

Johnson is pleased with his fitness levels after a tough pre-season and is raring to go for the start of the new season.

He said: “It has been nice to get back out there. Creating chances is a big part of my game and linking up with the strikers, so really we just needed to get to some kind of fitness level where come August 9 whatever team the gaffer picks is ready to get back into the swing of things.”