From pub league and Premier to playing PNE

Cardiff winger Anthony Pilkington studied at Myerscough College
Cardiff winger Anthony Pilkington studied at Myerscough College
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Anthony Pilkington will be returning to his home county when Cardiff City face Preston this weekend.

Pilkington was born in Darwen and as a teenager was on Blackburn’s books.

Following his release by Rovers, it was at Myerscough College where the winger was to kick-start a career which has gone on to blossom.

He studied for a national diploma in football studies and a foundation degree in football coaching while playing for Atherton Colleries in the North West Counties League.

Pilkington’s form for Atherton was to earn him a move to Stockport.

After two years there, he joined Huddersfield and there has been no looking back.

Norwich paid £2m for him in July 2011, and he had three years in the Premier League with the Canaries.

Last summer, Pilkington moved to Cardiff in a £1m deal.

A hamstring injury meant he missed a chunk of last season but so far this term, he has been a regular in the Bluebirds team.

He is also a Republic of Ireland international.

Reflecting on his time at Atherton, and also playing alongside his mates for Sunday morning team Darwen Catholics, Pilkington said: “It was a good grounding.

“I was playing in non-league at stadiums where there 
were only 15 or 16 people watching because it was so cold.

“It was a lot different from being brought up playing at Arsenal with all the technology and stuff like that.

“It was a long journey for me to get to where I am now, but it was a good one as well.

“I really enjoyed everywhere I have been, even the non-league and playing in the pub league with my mates.

“I never stopped enjoying the game and I think that was key really. I wouldn’t have done it any other way.”

Pilkington and his Cardiff team-mates come to Deepdale sitting in eighth place.

Their 10 league games have produced four wins, four draws and two defeats.

Cardiff’s last outing before the international break was a 1-1 draw at leaders Brighton.

City boss Russell Slade was honest enough to admit that it had not been the best display from his side.

But he saw the ability to grind out a draw as a sign of progress.

Slade said: “We wouldn’t have eked out that result last season. That’s the progress of the team, the spirit and togetherness of this group got us that result.

“We were not great at times, we were loose with the ball and nowhere near our best.

“But we still hung in there and got a point when it wasn’t a top display.”

Like many sides at this level, Cardiff boast strikers of quality who will take some watching.

Joe Mason is their top scorer with five goals in the league, while former Stoke and Sunderland front man Kenwyne Jones has netted twice.

With Alex Revell and Sammy Ameobi also there as back-up in attack, the Bluebirds were able to loan Eoin Doyle to PNE last month.

Cardiff’s last visit to Deepdale four-and-a-half years ago was a painful one for North End.

The Bluebirds’ 1-0 victory in April 2011 relegated them from the Championship.

Peter Whittingham scored the winner and is the only Cardiff player still at the club from that game.

The one player to have survived from the Preston squad that day is Bailey Wright.

He was an unused sub that day as PNE slipped down to League One.