PNE striker has eye on Arsenal cup tie
Jordan Hugill knows all Preston North End's players are battling for a spot in the big FA Cup clash against Arsenal over a packed Christmas and New Year period.
From Boxing Day PNE have three games in a week before the Gunners visit Deepdale in the televised third-round meeting on Saturday, January 7.
Simon Grayson’s men host Leeds United and Sheffield Wednesday before making the trip to Burton Albion as they look to continue their impressive Championship form.
Hugill, North End’s top goalscorer this season, has found himself out of the side in the last two games as Simon Makienok took his chance with two goals in two games against Nottingham Forest and Bristol City.
However, he knows his opportunity will come and is ready to take it.
“It’s a challenge for anyone who is playing in these league games to try and keep the shirt for the Arsenal game,” said the 24-year-old.
“I’ll be looking to do as much as I can but at the end of the day it’s down to the manager who plays that game but players have got a chance to go on a good run now.”
If and when he gets the chance to shine there is an added incentive for Hugill, who missed out the last time the big boys came to Deepdale.
The striker was injured for the 3-1 fifth-round defeat to Manchester United back in February 2015.
Having started out in non-league – playing for Whitby Town and Marske United, before moving on to Port Vale and North End – facing Arsenal would complete Hugill’s rise from the bottom to the top of the game.
“It’ll be one of the biggest teams I’ve played against,” said the Middlesbrough-born front-man who has established himself this season with six goals leading the line.
“That’s if I play, I never managed to play against United when they came here a few seasons ago because I was injured.
“It’ll be a great experience for whoever plays on the day, and the fans and everyone else.
“We were at the carol service on the night and one of the lads had the draw on their phones and as soon as we got Arsenal everyone was turning around buzzing.
“It’s a fantastic draw for everyone involved – the town, the club, everyone.”
Looking too far ahead would be a dangerous game for North End though.
In-form Leeds are in town on Boxing Day, with tests to come against Wednesday and Burton before the Gunners.
PNE will head into the Christmas period full of festive cheer with seven points in a week against Blackburn Rovers, Nottingham Forest and Bristol City, leaving Grayson’s side 11th in the Championship, five points shy of the play-off places.
A good run ahead of the Arsenal game would see Preston really in amongst it entering the second half of the season.
“We’ll kind of forget about Arsenal until we need to start preparing for that game,” said Hugill.
“There are quite a few important games coming up to get us right up that league and up where we want to be.”