Dave Seddon's Preston North End press view: Paul Huntington's longevity at Deepdale

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Cast your minds back to 2012 and  May of that year saw Preston North End embark on an overhaul of their playing squad.

A long list of Bosman signings had been agreed and were drip-fed into the public domain over the course of a fortnight or so.

Hit and miss would nicely sum those new faces up, some stood the test of time, others didn’t – one of them lasted barely three days.

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The player out of that group who has truly stood the test of time is Paul Huntington, the centre-back still in the North End squad and with another year left on his contract.

Preston North End centre-half Paul HuntingtonPreston North End centre-half Paul Huntington
Preston North End centre-half Paul Huntington | jpimedia

Appearances had been thinner on the ground up until the shutdown than he would have liked.

However, it is eight years and counting at Deepdale for the Cumbrian Cannavaro, a loyal servant indeed.

It was Huntington and North End’s anniversary on Friday – eight years since his signing was announced.

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Such longevity in football needs applauding on both sides, the central defender for wanting to stay at one club so long and PNE for sticking with him.

Paul Huntington scores for Preston North End against Swindon at Wembley in the Leaguer play-off final in May 2015Paul Huntington scores for Preston North End against Swindon at Wembley in the Leaguer play-off final in May 2015
Paul Huntington scores for Preston North End against Swindon at Wembley in the Leaguer play-off final in May 2015 | jpimedia

There was a spell when his days looked numbered but what finer way to bounce back than Huntington scoring at Wembley and winning the player of the year award in the promotion season.

It is the Wembley anniversary on Sunday, play-off glory and ink on registration forms three years apart.

Taking time to reminisce about Huntington’s time at North End in this column is preferable to another guessing game over when this campaign might restart.

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Like all of his Preston colleagues, Huntington will be desperate to pull on those black boots and get back to work on the training pitch.

The defender was 24 and had been playing at Yeovil for two seasons when he opted for the move to PNE.

Out of contract with the Glovers, it was the chance to return north and much nearer to his Carlisle home.

After all, Somerset to Cumbria was one hell of a commute when he had a few days off.

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At the time of his signing, Huntington was just another name in a long list of players for us to digest.

John Welsh, Nicky Wroe, Shane Cansdell-Sheriff and David Buchanan were some who had previously been announced.

You would put Welsh in the stood the test of time category together with Huntington, the midfielder staying six years.

Interestingly at the time of Huntington’s arrival, Peter Ridsdale said: “Paul is a hungry young footballer and yet another player who has captained the team he is with this season, like John Welsh.

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“If we can have a team of 11 leaders on the field then we will definitely be competitive.”

Huntington has gone on to pull on the North End shirt 280 times. He’s scored 18 goals, half of which came in the 2014/15 promotion campaign.

Bear in mind that season he didn’t kick a ball in the league until October 21 and hadn’t started a League One since December 2013.

He finished with 47 league, cup and play-off games under his belt and the glory of netting PNE’s second goal in the 4-0 Wembley romp over Swindon.

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Winding the clock forward to the present day, Huntington has had to make do with a bit-part role this season.

He has still had eight starts in the Championship and one in the Carabao Cup.

Those appearances in the league between December 2 and January 1 when Patrick Bauer and Ben Davies were unavailable at different times.

Him and Jordan Storey were pitched together for the televised clash with West Bromwich Albion when Bauer and Davies were both sidelines.

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They kept the Baggies at bay until a controversial late penalty gave the visitors the three points.

The Huntington/Storey pairing was used again at QPR, then Huntington was paired with the returning Bauer for the games against Fulham, Luton and Cardiff.

In those three, PNE took seven points from nine.

Bauer went down with illness over Christmas, so it was Huntington and Davies at Leeds on Boxing Day, that Davies’ comeback game after an ankle injury.

It took a deflected shot in the last minute for Leeds to equalise Alan Browne’s goal in the first half.

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Huntington and Davies stayed together for the two home defeats to Reading and Middlesbrough.

Just hold this thought for a moment, at the time we were gnashing our teeth over the Reading defeat, coronavirus wasn’t a known thing. Times have changed.

If the season resumes next month – June 20 is the latest plan – Bauer and Davies will be first choice.

However, don’t write-off Huntington, or indeed any of the squad.

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Restarting after a long break and with a relatively short ‘pre-season’ points to match fitness issues and indeed injuries.

Managers might well have to play a rotation game and use their squads as players gradually find their feet.

There is also the chance some players will have to isolate if Covid-19 tests come back positive.

Let’s not get too gloomy, there’s enough of that around at the moment.

Happy eighth anniversary to Huntington at Deepdale and indeed happy fifth anniversary to PNE’s Wembley win - what a day that was!