Exclusive Paul Huntington column

Paul Huntington
Paul Huntington
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I have got my name on the scoresheet a few times lately which is nice for any player, whatever position you play.

As a centre-half, the goals are a bonus on top of my main job of trying to keep clean sheets and giving us a solid base to build on.

In my first season here at Preston I got four goals, then I just got a couple last year.

This time I have scored four goals since getting back into the team in October and it would be nice if a few more follow.

The delivery into the box from the other lads has played a part in my goals and it has just been a case of getting on the end of them.

Last Saturday in the FA Cup win over Shrewsbury, it was an instinctive finish.

The ball sat up for me nicely after it had hit one of their players and I managed to catch it sweetly.

Tom Clarke, who I play alongside at the back, has weighed in with a couple of goals and there have been an assist or two in there.

At Oldham the other week in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy, Clarkey put the ball over the line after my shot was saved.

It is important that the squad gets its fair share of goals and I think we have had 15 different scorers this season in all of the competitions.

With Joe Garner going out of the team with his injury and Jermaine Beckford finding his feet here, we all need to chip in.

Even if Joe had not suffered the injury, there would still have been an expectancy for others to score.

Teams will always have strikers who score plenty of goals but you have to share the load to some extent.

My first goal at senior level came with Newcastle – the club where I started my career.

I was there from the age of 10 through to when I was 20 and it is a time I look back on with some very good memories.

While I’m a Carlisle lad, the drive to Newcastle was only about an hour or so and it was a journey I made frequently when coming through their academy.

When I was 16, I signed as a trainee and got accommodation over there.

In my first season as a trainee I was playing in the youth team on a Saturday and also for the reserves in the week.

Clubs are set up a bit differently nowadays, with the Under-21s and development squads.

Not many first-team players tend to play in the reserves anymore but at Newcastle if a player had been out injured or was out of the first-team, they would play in the reserves.

Players like Michael Chopra and Shola Ameobi used to play quite regularly in the reserves, James Milner played a few times too.

I think that playing with more experienced players quite regularly helped your game develop but now the emphasis seems to be on playing in the same age group.

My chance at first-team level at Newcastle came when Glenn Roeder was manager at St James’ Park.

He had been academy boss when I was in it and after a stint as caretaker manager, he got the job full-time.

I was fortunate enough to play in the UEFA Cup during my time at Newcastle.

We had a decent run in the 2006-07 season and ended-up playing Dutch side AZ Alkmaar who were managed by Louis Van Gaal.

In the first leg we won 4-2 at home but lost 2-0 over in Holland and went out on away goals.

I played in that second leg at left-back and also in an earlier round.

We had played in the InterToto Cup earlier in the season to qualify for the UEFA Cup in the first place and it was all a good experience.

It was a pretty decent squad at Newcastle at the time, with players like Scott Parker, Nobby Solano, Michael Owen, Obafemi Martins, Antonie Sibierski and Kieran Dyer.

Back to the present day and here at Preston we are gearing ourselves up for another busy spell of matches.

We had that long run of Saturday-Tuesday matches when 90% of them were away and involved a lot of travelling as our supporters will be only too aware of.

This last fortnight we have had clear midweeks which has enabled us to get a bit more rest and some extra time on the training pitch.

During that spell when we were playing every midweek, the training was in the main recovery sessions.

Every footballer will tell you that they prefer playing games to training any day of the week.

But every now and then, you need a bit of breathing space between games and the chance to work on shape and tactics.

I would say Saturday’s game with MK Dons is the start of the Christmas programme.

We have then got the midweek game in the JPT against Notts County.

After that we go to Peterborough in the league and then it is the Boxing Day game.

I enjoy playing the Christmas games and it is a chance to put a lot of points on the board in a short space of time. Hopefully by January we will still be in a strong position in the league.

On Monday night it was nice to attend the Christmas Carol Service at Deepdale.

It is something which the club have been looking to do for a couple of years and it was good to see it so well supported.

I’m told that around 1,100 people turned up which was a fantastic turn-out on what was a cold night.