Exclusive Alan Browne Preston North End column: My landmark moments with PNE

Playing for Preston in the 2015 League One play-off final against Swindon at Wembley
Playing for Preston in the 2015 League One play-off final against Swindon at Wembley

To play my 200th game for Preston North End last week was a huge honour for myself and to be captain that day made it even more special.

Hopefully there will be many more to come and I can double or triple that amount of games.

Of those 200 games, there are some which stand out more than others do.

My debut was a big one for obvious reasons, I came on as a substitute in a 3-1 win over Peterborough at home.

A couple of weeks later I got my first start against Carlisle.

I scored that day in a 6-1 win and I’ve been reminded that Jordan Pickford was in goal for Carlisle.

So those two games, first appearance and first goal, are special to me.

At the end of that season I played in the first leg of the play-off semi-final against Rotherham at Deepdale.

In the game Joe Garner scored that incredible goal and I think it’s the best one I’ve seen from a team-mate at Preston.

You could describe it as a ‘worldy’ and it was superb technique from Joey.

A year later there was the play-off final at Wembley which in football terms was the best day of my life.

I came on as a substitute for Paul Gallagher during the first half so got plenty of time on the pitch.

Every year I have enjoyed the games on Gentry Day.

They are special games and unique to Preston, so it a privilege to be involved in those matches.

Moving more up to date, Blackburn away last month was brilliant with that huge support.

So too Blackburn at our place earlier in the season.

The 4-1 win was one of our best performances of the season and it meant so much to the fans – the fact I scored helped too.

Jumping back three or four years, the time we beat Huddersfield here stands out to me.

I scored our last-minute winner with a header, yet it was touch and go whether I played the game.

My car got a flat tyre on the motorway on my way to Deepdale and the kitman had to come and rescue me.

He stayed with my car and I drove his van to the ground.

I wasn’t sure if I was going to be picked because I was late but I suppose I had a good excuse.

That was hopefully the first and last time I arrive at a ground driving a van!

The games towards the end of last season stand out too.

There was a lot riding on those games, the atmosphere was building and there was a sense of anticipation that we would get into the play-offs.

We took it down to the wire, down to the last day and unfortunately missed out by one place.

But there was a massive high about the place and it was great to be involved.

Wearing the skipper’s armband last week was a big moment.

The first time I had been captain from the start of the game was at Hull earlier in the season.

There had been a couple of games where I wore the armband when Gally had come off.

It is more than five years ago that I first signed here, January 2014.

I hadn’t left school that long before and to leave my family behind was a big thing.

Home might only be a flight away but it wasn’t as if I could just go and call round to see my mates.

Often I was ringing home to speak to my mum for some advice and I used to fly home at every opportunity.

As the time has gone by I’m a lot more settled and have adapted to things as a person, not just a footballer.

I still go home but only if I really need to.

One thing which helped me to settle was moving in with Ben Davies.

For the first two months I stayed at Farington Lodge.

Ben was out on loan at the time and I didn’t know him but he came back for some treatment on an injury.

We got talking and he said I could have the spare room at his apartment on the Docks.

Josh Brownhill was a big mate in those early years – it was good to have someone else coming through at the same time.

Faces have come and gone but there are still some from when I first came – Gally was here when I signed and Callum Robinson wasn’t too far behind me when he first came on loan.

People know how happy I am here and I just want to keep making appearances for this club.

At the same time I don’t just want to keep playing games and get nowhere.

I want to help this club get to the next level – that is my ambition and hopefully we can do that.”