EXCLUSIVE Joe Rodwell-Grant column: Moving to the city helped bring my PNE dream to life

It’s always been my dream to become a professional footballer at Preston North End for as long as I can remember. In fact it’s been such a goal of mine that I decided to move to the city in my early teens.

Thursday, 19th August 2021, 4:45 pm

Originally, I was born in Haslingden and lived in Rossendale with my mum. At the age of 11 I was picked up by Preston’s academy while playing junior football in East Lancashire.

At the time it was hard getting to and from training so with my dad living in Preston, I made the big decision to move over here and for the past five years or so I have lived in Bamber Bridge.

It was a big change, it meant changing schools but at the time I felt it would be better so that I could focus on both my school work and my football.

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Celebrating scoring against Wigan Athletic at the DW Stadium in pre-season

That was the main reason for moving over here and I’m glad that I did it at a young age.

Preston’s a good place to live and I have all my mates here now so that’s good.

Living in the city has meant that I have watched a lot of Preston’s games over the past few years.

Obviously being in the academy, we used to get tickets to come and watch the games.

I used to be there every home game, getting pictures taken with players like Daniel Johnson, Paul Gallagher and Callum Robinson when he was here.

Now I am training alongside players like DJ which is a dream come true.

They were the kind of players that I would look up to whenever I would see them play on a Saturday.

The academy used to train Wednesday and Thursday and we would always talk about the games at the weekend and they were like role models to us and they still are now.

Coming through the academy was tough. There were plenty of ups and downs.

But I enjoyed my time and made lots of friends, who are still my friends now.

The harsh reality though is you see lots of lads come and go so for me to get a professional contract was a real proud moment for me.

I can’t look back though, I have to keep looking forward and see what I can do to help the first team.

Some of the lads I have come through the academy with have gone on to make appearances at first-team level.

Tyrhys Dolan obviously left Preston to go to Blackburn – he was a little bit older than me and there’s Ethan Walker, who was a year above me.

He’s played in the Preston first team and seeing him do that at the age of 16, it was what I wanted to do. To see Tyrhys starting games in the Championship, that’s what I want to do.

It’s good to have mates with goals and ambitions because it pushes you on even more.

I guess one of my highlights so far is scoring against Wigan Athletic in a pre-season friendly at the DW Stadium.

The chance came when I got played through by Tom Barkhuizen and just took the chance.

The emotion behind it was incredible.

To score that goal in front of the fans was a great 
feeling.

It was everything I have always dreamed of.

Hopefully my next goal will come at Deepdale in the Championship because that’s my next aim – to make my 
debut for the club.

I am hoping it will come this season but we just have to wait and see.