PNE star tipped to shine

Daniel Johnson
Daniel Johnson
  • John Welsh tips midfield partner to be a hit in Championship
  • Daniel Johnson scored some fantastic goals last season
  • Team spirit was major part of North End’s promotion success
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Preston North End midfielder John Welsh is backing team-mate Daniel Johnson to impress in the Championship this season.

The 22-year-old made a big impact at Deepdale following his bargain £50,000 signing from Aston Villa in January.

Him, Jermaine Beckford, Joe Garner and Paul Gallagher will really suit the Championship.

Welsh struck up a good engine-room partnership with Johnson, his deeper role allowing the ex-Villa man more freedom going forward.

It is an understanding he is hoping can continue as North End look to establish themselves in the higher division after promotion.

“I’m sure that DJ will shine in the Championship,” Welsh told the Evening Post.

“You tend to get a bit more time on the ball the higher up you go, more football is played.

“That is what DJ will thrive on and it will be exciting to see him play.

“He likes to dictate the pace of a game and goes box-to-box very easily – he covers a lot of ground.

“We have seen what he can do from the edge of the box in terms of his shooting.

“DJ has a great left foot and scored some fantastic goals last season.

“Him, Jermaine Beckford, Joe Garner and Paul Gallagher will really suit the Championship.”

For much of the second-half of last season, Welsh, Johnson and Gallagher formed a trio in midfield.

Neil Kilkenny returned to the starting XI for the second leg of the play-off semi-final against Chesterfield and the final at Wembley – Gallagher taking a wider role.

Further midfield options in the forthcoming campaign will come in the shape of Alan Browne – who signed a new contract this week – and Josh Brownhill.

Welsh is one of a number of last season’s squad to have been given new deals.

Keeping the core together will help in the step-up to the next level, according to the 31-year-old.

“The gaffer knows how good the team spirit was last season and that it played a part in our promotion,” said Welsh.

“It is good to see so many of the lads sign back on and no doubt the gaffer will sign the right type of players to fit into the group.”

Welsh’s contribution to the promotion campaign was a major one, his holding role providing a layer of protection in front of the defence.

Yet he had to wait patiently to break into the side, his first taste of league action only coming at the end of October against Fleetwood.

Said Welsh: “I always knew that my chance would come.

“The gaffer likes to use his full squad and it was a case of waiting for that opportunity.

“I didn’t allow myself to fall into a bad frame of mind, I made a deal with myself to train well and make sure I was fit and strong for when my chance came along.

“That chance came against Fleetwood, Kevin Davies and myself came on at half-time when we were 2-0 down.

“We won that game 3-2 with Joe Garner scoring a hat-trick and I was in the side for most of the time after that.”