Greg Cunningham looks to prove himself all over again as a Preston North End player
Returning to Preston North End for a second spell was an easy decision for Greg Cunningham to make in the January window.
However, there was a real determination within the Irish defender that he didn’t regard coming back as going into his comfort zone.
Cunningham wants to be judged on what he does now and not lean on the fine three years he had at Deepdale between the summers of 2015 and 2018.
Not that the North End faithful will forget that contribution to the cause which saw the left-back firmly establish himself as a fans’ favourite.
The 30-year-old has got five games under his belt since coming back, initially on loan from Cardiff and then in a permanent deal.
He was also an unused substitute in the Watford game, that coming straight after the 2-1 victory at Blackburn Rovers in which Cunningham scored.
Proof there then, that this is no comfortable move, with him fighting for a place like any other team-mate.
“For me coming back I had to make sure it wasn’t a case of it being a comfy move,” Cunningham told the Lancashire Post ahead of the Tuesday night trip to Millwall
“I have a lot to prove. I said to the gaffer when I first signed that I would do everything as if I hadn’t been here before.
“I want to attack this opportunity as hard as I can and repay the faith the club has shown me in bringing me back here.
“That is being a consistent figure and giving everything to the team. It is a fresh start.
“I needed to hit the ground running and I think I’ve done that.
“With not having played a lot of football since I left, it has been frustrating few years.
“I suppose the flip side of that, another way to look at it, is that I should be fresh as a daisy with not having played a great deal.
“That is how I’m feeling at the moment, I’m feeling good in myself.
“I want to keep pushing myself in this latter end of the season and see how I go.
“I definitely feel a fire in me, I know what I can offer
“It is about a chance to get a run of games which is something I never got after leaving. I’m back here and have managed to play a few games so far.
“I’m looking to show what I can do again. Football is very fickle because people can forget what you have done in the past, it’s about performing well now.
“I think I’m showing a decent standard.”
Cunningham’s move from Cardiff being turned into a permanent one after he first joined on loan, did not make much difference from his personal point of view.
It was designed more to free up space in the list of loan players, only five are allowed in a matchday squad and PNE had seven when the transfer window closed.
He and Ched Evans were handed permanent deals, although only to the end of the season – the same length as the loans.
Impressing in the weeks ahead could well earn him a longer stay.
Said Cunningham: “I just want to play football, I’m grateful for the chance here and I’ll do the very best I can for the club.
“In the summertime my contract will be up, I’ll be a free agent and we can go from there. I’m very happy here, I enjoy playing.”
In the Preston changing room there is a mixture of former colleagues and new team-mates for Cunningham.
Alan Browne, Daniel Johnson, Paul Huntington, Sean Maguire, Declan Rudd and Paul Gallagher are among those he played with in his first spell.
New to him is the Euxton training ground and he is candid enough to admit he doesn’t miss the gym at their former Springfields base.
I think it was a character-building approach at Springfields,” said Cunningham with a chuckle.
“In the winter the gym used to be freezing, it was warmer outside.
“We were almost opening the gym door to let some heat in!
“It was still a great place with a lot of good memories.
“You look at the new training ground and it is top class, certainly a lot cosier when you are in and about.”
After taking four points from two games at Deepdale, PNE head out on the road to face Millwall at The Den.
It is a long midweek trip but Alex Neil’s men have done plenty of those this season – QPR, Reading and Bournemouth have all been visited midweek.
Cunningham said: “The schedule is relentless but with the way things have been, you can’t complain.
“I prefer the matches to being out on the training pitch ticking away, it’s all about game-day for me.
“I’ve seen that Millwall are unbeaten in their last five at home, it’s never easy going to The Den.”
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