Friends reunited for PNE striker
Preston being drawn against Hartlepool United in the League Cup, stirred some good memories for Lilywhites front man Jordan Hugill.
Two seasons ago, Hugill was in the Pools side which staged the ‘Great Escape’, defying the odds to avoid being relegated from the Football League after seemingly being dead and buried.
He scored the winner in the game which ultimately kept them up – one of four goals in an eight-match stay.
Hugill came back from that loan and straight into the PNE squad for the play-off final at Wembley in May 2015.
Over the past 12 months, the young striker has been a regular in the Preston squad.
He came on as a substitute in the second half of Saturday’s defeat at Reading and when North End host Pools at Deepdale on Tuesday night, Hugill would dearly love to be involved.
“I have always kept an eye on Hartlepool since I left,” said Hugill.
“When the draw was made during the summer, I got a few texts from people up there.
“I got on well with the kitman and physio during the loan spell and have kept in contact with them.
“I’m looking forward to seeing a few familiar faces when they come down.
“Quite a few of the players who were part of the Great Escape, have since left.”
North End loaned Hugill to Hartlepool in March 2015 as he strived to regain match fitness after knee surgery.
Before that, he had been on loan at Tranmere, which was far from a happy stay for him.
Said Hugill: “It was a good choice for me to go on loan to Hartlepool. It was in effect a chance to go home, enjoy my football and play matches.
“I was coming back from a knee operation and that was the place to go and get some sharpness at.
“It worked out the way I wanted and I scored the goal which kept them up.
“It wasn’t just down to me though, there were a lot of people who worked hard on the pitch and behind the scenes to make it happen.
“I was the lucky one to score such a significant goal – I got four in total.
“Before Hartlepool, I’d been at Tranmere – I went there to join my old Port Vale manager Micky Adams.
“Things just didn’t work out there and sometimes that happens.
“They were my first few games back after the operation and it was difficult. Perhaps it needed something like that to happen, to bring me back down a bit.
“I went to Hartlepool to find my feet again and it turned out perfectly.
“When their season finished, I came back to Preston and was on the bench at Wembley.
“Last season, I got my first taste of the Championship and I want more of that this season.”
Hugill and his North End team-mates are smarting from the opening-day loss to Reading and can hopefully put on a better show against Pools.
Two divisions above the Teesside outfit, they start very much as favourites.
“It is always good to have a Tuesday night game after a defeat on Saturday,” said Hugill.
“You dust yourself down, get training again and get ready for the game.
“After the tough pre-season we’ve had, playing games is really welcome.
“We’d play Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday if it meant not having to do the training sessions!
“We have a good squad and everyone is ready to play.
“Hopefully I will be involved, if I don’t start I will be ready to come off the bench when required.
“If we can beat Hartlepool, we would carry the confidence into the next league game.
“We didn’t play well in the first half at Reading but we got better in the second.
“What we need is more of what we did in the second half and no repeat of the first.
Hugill has plenty of strikers for company in the Preston squad.
Jermaine Beckford and Joe Garner got the nod from Simon Grayson to start against Reading, Hugill replacing Garner for the last 13 minutes.
Eoin Doyle is pushing strongly for a start after a good pre-season, while there will also be the option of Simon Makienok once he shakes off a slight thigh strain.
“There are plenty of choices for the gaffer and it is up to us to show him we are worthy of a place,” said Hugill.
“He tends to keep his cards close to his chest in terms of who he is thinking of playing.
“In training, we will do our finishing work and hopefully impress him enough.
“Regardless of who goes into the team, the rest of us will support them.
“We all want to be part of a winning team and if someone is doing well enough to keep the shirt, that is great.
“There are different ways and systems that we can play up front and I’m happy to play however the gaffer wants, whether it is two up there, one with one behind, or three across the front.”