Exclusive Josh Earl PNE Column

On the run against Middlesbrough last month
On the run against Middlesbrough last month
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These last few weeks have been great for me and at the start of the season I could not have imagined what has gone on to happen.

Last month the gaffer gave me an opportunity in the first team and I cannot thank him enough for that.

The games I have played have been a real education and I’ve enjoyed them so much.

Getting the results we have done over the last few weeks has been great and hopefully we can continue our good form in the weeks to come.

I feel that as a team we are improving and that there is a lot more to come from us as we play more matches and train with the gaffer.

Just recently, I’ve signed a new contract which was such a proud moment.

This club has always said they would reward players who do well, so to get the new deal was very pleasing.

My association with North End goes back to when I was nine.

That is when I came for a trial with the academy and I was fortunate enough to get taken on.

The trial game was played at Springfields on the back pitch and a few of us were chosen.

At the time, I played for Formby Juniors in the local junior Sunday league and I had to stop when Preston signed me.

I was in the academy from then all the way through to when I signed professional in the summer.

We trained on Wednesday and Friday nights at UCLan sports arena, and played our matches on a Sunday.

I was coached by Rob Henry, Phil Eastwood, Andy Fensome, Nick Harrison, Phil Brown and Brian O’Neil during my time with the academy.

Getting my scholarship with Preston was a very big moment and a proud one.

It was an eventful two years, in that the youth team had good runs both seasons in the FA Youth Cup.

Two seasons ago, we got to the fifth round before losing to Luton on penalties.

We went one better last season, reaching the 
quarter-finals where Stoke beat us at Deepdale.

The FA Youth Cup is a very big tournament for young players and gets talked about a lot, so it was good to do well both years of my scholarship.

In the years coming through the academy, I played a number of positions for Preston.

I played at centre-back, full-back, in midfield, up front as a striker and once I even ended-up as a keeper!

Left-back is definitely my best position at the moment and one I enjoy playing.

The gaffer put a lot of trust in me to play there at first-team level – other managers might have been tempted instead to play more experienced players.

It was a bad injury to Greg Cunningham which gave me my first-team chance.

I would not wish an injury on any player and hopefully Greg gets back to fitness as quickly as possible.

Since I got into the team, I’ve had so much support and encouragement from Greg.

He gives me advice, chats to me, pushes me on.

When you’ve got a player like Greg doing that, it is a great boost and very much appreciated.

During my time coming through the academy and now in the first-team squad, I’ve always had the strong support of my family.

My mum and dad have been there all the way, going to games all over the place.

My younger brother, who is 15 and is in PNE’s academy, loves following the games. I wanted to be a footballer for as long as I can remember and my family have been there every step of the way.

Playing at left-back in the Preston team, I have been up against some very talented opponents on that side of the pitch.

You have to be switched on all the time, your focus has to be right until the final whistle.

I got my first yellow card against Birmingham last week which I had to hold my hand up to.

By the same token, I thought I should have had a penalty in the second half when I got tripped in the box.

The referee thought their lad had got a touch on the ball but I had definitely got there before him.

As it was, we went on to win the game and played very well as a team in the second half.

It is Millwall next for us and that will be a tough game.

We need to keep playing like we have done over the last few weeks if we are to get the three points.

Our first-half display at Birmingham wasn’t very good but in the second half we were excellent and hit back to win the game.

We want to push on from here and will do that by working hard.