I am just back from a three-week holiday in Australia – a belated trip to celebrate my 40th birthday earlier in the year – hence me not having written this column for a little while.
It has been a good week for me to return in terms of what is happening ON the pitch for Preston, although obviously what has happened off it is more disappointing with the news of Joe Garner’s injury and Callum Robinson being recalled by Aston Villa part-way through his loan spell.
With regards to the results, there was that great win at Bristol City which I’m sure made a few people sit up and take notice.
Then there was the victory at Oldham, achieved with a penalty shootout – the big keeper Thorsten Stuckmann scoring the winning penalty.
On Saturday, North End followed that up by winning away to Yeovil 2-0.
Three away wins on the bounce in the space of seven days, you cannot argue with that can you?
Obviously, losing Garner is a big blow, no one can deny that. For the last year he has been on fire with his goals and teams really fear him.
When Simon Grayson brought Jermaine Beckford in from Bolton, the plan seemed to be to pair him up with Garner up front.
But now he is a straight replacement for Garner and I think he can be a very good one.
Beckford was a team-mate of mine at Leeds United. Kevin Blackwell signed him from non-league.
He was very raw to start with and probably not quite ready for the Championship when he first came in. He went on to play a lot under Dennis Wise and then Simon Grayson and his goals record showed that he flourished.
At this level Beckford will score goals if given the right service. He has plenty of pace and plays off the shoulder, possessing the ability to really stretch teams.
He is not going to hold up the ball like Kevin Davies does and build play.
But get the ball to him in the right areas and Beckford will score goals, simple as.
He is an arm-around-the-shoulder type of lad, he needs that confidence.
All players are different, some respond to the carrot and others to the stick. This is the third time that Grayson has worked with him and clearly knows how to get the best out of him.
Going back to Garner and it seems the seriousness of the injury came right out of the blue, even though he did come off at half-time at Bristol City.
When I played for Oldham I tore my Achilles tendon in a game on the Saturday against Huddersfield – the striker I was marking raked his studs down the back of my leg.
I finished the game, trained as normal on the Monday and was in the team to play on the Tuesday night.
But during the warm-up I could hardly move my leg and it was found I had a 66% tear.
I think that sometimes your body defends itself for a little while and injuries can hide themselves.
I’ll finish off with a quick tale from my trip to Australia. We were at Melbourne Airport on the way to Sydney and, when my missus was being searched, the security guy was asking if she supported United or City because we travelled from Manchester.
She replied Oldham and the bloke said, ‘That’s not far from me, I’m a Preston fan’.
I’d been down on the floor rooting through the bag for the passports and when I stood up and he said, ‘Blimey, it’s Sean Gregan’.
What a small world it is, he had emigrated a few years ago.