John Welsh’s exclusive column

John Welsh
John Welsh
  • Welsh excited about start of the new season against Middlesbrough on Sunday at Deepdale
  • Boro match will be a good guage to see where North End are at after winning promotion last season
  • Midfielder is a speed demon when it comes to go-karting
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Pre-season is almost over and we are all excited about our Championship opener against Middlesbrough.

It is going to be a tough game against a Boro side who were one of top teams in the division last season and will no doubt be so again this time.

The go-karting was a great team-bonding exercise, excellent for morale and a chance to mix away from the football pitch.

We can use this as a good gauge to see what the division is all about, go straight into the campaign against one of the big guns.

With Boro being one of the best sides at this level last season, we saw them quite a bit on television and also played against them in the Capital One Cup last August.

Saying that, our preparation for the game has revolved around what we do and our strengths.

I cannot wait to see Deepdale busy with all the fans right behind us and singing loudly.

We are more than ready for the game – mentally and physically – with us having done a lot of work over the last week or so which has been focused on this one.

Like every footballer up and down the country, the lads here will be pleased to see the end of pre-season and the beginning of the proper stuff.

Pre-season has to be done though, and the last few weeks have seen us put the work and graft in.

It never gets any easier but it is a necessity – when you are digging deep for results during the season, you look back and are grateful for those sprints you’ve done and the time put in on the training ground.

We played a number of pre-season friendlies and while results were mixed, we got plenty out of them.

It is hard to look at results in the friendly games and use them as any sort of meaningful guide to the season.

I have done pre-seasons in the past when we have won every friendly and then lost the first league match.

On the other side of the coin, there have been times when we could not buy a win for love or money in the summer and then had a great unbeaten start to the season.

The games have been very much about match fitness and sharpness, although it is only during the first few league games that your true sharpness returns.

Ultimately, all the friendlies have been geared towards playing Middlesbrough on Sunday. Fair play to the teams we played in pre-season, all of them gave us a really good test.

None of the games were ‘you have it then we have it’ type affairs which you sometimes get.

Chorley and Bamber Bridge played well against us, operated at a good tempo and pressed well.

When you are pressed and tested like that, I think you get so much more out of a game.

Sometimes in friendlies, especially against sides higher up, the tempo is much slower.

One feature of our last two friendlies against Carlisle and Bury, was the amount of rain which came down during the games – the biggest risk in both was getting trench foot!

I just hope it is sunnier and warmer on Sunday, it is almost traditional for it to be cracking the flags on the opening day.

For a few days during pre-season, we went up to Scotland which was a nice change of scene.

We played the game against Motherwell at Livingston and stayed in Glasgow afterwards to train and do a bit of team bonding.

It was nice to get away from the training ground for a little while and have different surroundings, after all we will be spending the next nine months at Springfields.

During our time in Glasgow, we spent an evening go-karting which was a great laugh.

When I was at Hull City, I was their go-karting champion in 2006-07 season.

I’m pleased to say that I was also in the winning Preston team, together with Jordan Hugill and Jamie Jones.

All the players and staff took part, with us divided into 11 teams of three.

We started off quite well but Jonesy was then kicked-off the course for crashing into the other karts!

That dropped us down to last place after the first race, leaving us with loads of catching up to do.

I went next, did my 20-minute stint and got us up to third place which I was pleased with.

Step forward Jordan who along with Kyel Reid, is probably the best go-kart racer at the club.

Jordan rode the race of his life and took us into first place – Lewis Hamilton eat your heart out.

I have never driven with Jordan in a normal car.

But if he drives like he did on the race track, I do not intend setting foot in a car if he is at the wheel!

The go-karting was a great team-bonding exercise, excellent for morale and a chance to mix away from the football pitch.

There was plenty of laughter and banter flying around, with the staff joining in with the lads.

Jonesy was not the only driver to get kicked-off for crashing but I won’t reveal any other names.

I have mentioned Jordan and Reidy as being the best go-kart drivers but what about the worst?

Calum Woods was pretty bad, although I already knew that as I drive in with him to training every morning from Liverpool.

Paul Huntington is probably up there with Calum.

Hunts actually indicated by sticking his arm out when he pulled back on to the track after a pitt-stop which was a bit over-cautious!

He is a really tall lad, so sitting squashed into one of the go-karts wasn’t the most comfortable for him.