Jones says goodbye as PNE leave Championship

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Billy Jones will end four seasons with Preston North End on Saturday as Deepdale bids farewell to the Championship.

The 24-year-old defender has confirmed that the lunchtime game against Watford (12.45pm) is to be his last in a North End shirt.

Millwall v PNE Billy Jones

Millwall v PNE Billy Jones

His contract ends in June and he’ll be available to leave on a Bosman free transfer.

Jones is targeting a move to the Premier League, hoping that being a consistent performer at Championship level will persuade a top-flight club to take a chance on him.

The stand-in skipper freely admits that had PNE avoided relegation, he would have considered staying.

But the impending drop to League One made up his mind to leave.

Jones said: “The Watford game will be my last game for Preston.

“The gaffer has known the situation for a while and has been very good about it.

“He could have decided not to play me, but he knows I will always give my all for Preston.

“It wasn’t really a case of me telling the gaffer that I wasn’t going to be staying around – it was more that I didn’t want to play in League One.

“I’ve played there before for Crewe and I think it hindered my development.

“The gaffer knew that if Preston stopped up, I would have spoken to him and the chairman about staying at Preston. I’ve loved my four years here and really enjoyed working with the gaffer since he came in.

“Unfortunately, we weren’t able to stop up and this is the situation.

“In terms of where I go next, there’s nothing concrete.

“It wasn’t like I turned around and told clubs last October to come and watch me because I was leaving.

“I was genuinely happy at Preston in the Championship.

“From a professional point of view, every player in the Championship wants to play in the Premier League.

“That is my aim – whether it happens depends on if people are willing to give me the chance to prove myself at that level.

“I feel I have proven myself in the Championship – I’ve spent seven out of the last eight years in this division.

“Now I want to try and show I can play in the Premier League.”

The fact that Jones’ contract has been allowed to run out has proved a major talking-point among PNE supporters.

He signed a four-year deal when joining from Crewe for a tribunal-fixed fee in June 2007.

Jones felt the times for talks should have been after Preston reached the play-offs two years ago.

He said: “I know for a fact that, had I been offered something the season after we made the play-offs, without a doubt it would have been signed the next day.

“When we made the play-offs, I was looking forward to the next season and thinking the same could happen.

“Reaching the play-offs was the highlight for me here – that will be something I’ll never forget.

“I’d never experienced them before and it was a magnificent feeling.

“The best moment was after we’d beaten Birmingham away and we knew we had a chance of making the play-offs.

“Then there was the last game against QPR when Darren Carter cleared off the line with the last kick of the game.”

* North End will present their various Player of the Year awards on the pitch ahead of Saturday’s game.