New Preston recruit David Gray thinks the time was right to leave Manchester United in pursuit of regular first-team football.
The 22-year-old joined North End on Friday, making his debut in the 3-1 friendly win over Chorley a matter of hours after putting pen to paper.
He came through United’s youth ranks but was limited to just a single appearance for the Red Devils in the Carling Cup.
Gray got an appetite for the Championship during two loan spells with Plymouth Argyle, and he is looking forward to a fruitful stay at Deepdale.
The right-back has signed a two-year contract after moving on a free transfer and became Darren Ferguson’s fifth summer capture following the arrivals of Paul Hayes, Craig Morgan, Wayne Brown and Matt James.
Gray told the Evening Post: “I was ready to leave United, I’d been there since I was 16 and I’m 22 now. I’m at an age where I need to be playing first-team football regularly.
“In the last couple of seasons I got a taste for it at Plymouth, and having returned to United and not quite making it, I knew my time was up there.
“A number of players have left United in the past and done well at other clubs, I’ve moved to a big club and this is a good level of football.
“I spoke to Danny Welbeck last week about Preston, he told me he enjoyed his loan spell here last season.
“Matt James is here on loan from United and again I spoke to him before signing. It is handy to know players, it helps break the ice a little bit.
“Sir Alex Ferguson said this would be a good move for me, that I’d be playing at a good standard and be well looked after.”
Gray’s career started with Hearts in his home city of Edinburgh, before he made the move south to join United as a 16-year-old.
A right-back by trade, he can also push up into midfield if the need arises.
Said Gray: “The manager here is ambitious and there are a good bunch of lads at the club. The Championship isn’t something which is new to me, I played the first-half of last season on loan at Plymouth and the second-half of the season before.
“So, in effect, I played a full season spread over two years. I came back from Plymouth in January to have an operation on my hip.
“I knew I would be out of contract this summer, so it made sense to get the operation done so I was fully fit for pre-season.”
PNE boss Ferguson is hoping for further transfer acitivity at Deepdale soon, both incoming and outgoing.
Reports late last week claiming he’d already signed Stoke left-back Carl Dickinson proved premature.
While Dickinson is a target, he spent last week in Austria with the Potters and North End chairman Maurice Lindsay says no bid has been lodged.
In the other direction, Millwall should be making a decision soon on whether to take Darren Carter on a six-month loan to the New Den following a week’s trial.
Ferguson said: “I would be surprised if Darren’s loan to Millwall didn’t go through.
“Of the players on the transfer list, there’s been no enquiries about Stephen Elliott or Richard Chaplow.
“With Neal Trotman there’s been just a few small enquiries.”