Josh Earl looking to rediscover his form of old after winning his Preston North End place back
Preston left-back Josh Earl is hoping to rediscover the ‘Josh Earl of old’ on a regular and consistent basis this season.
The 22-year-old was handed his first start of the season on Tuesday night in the 1-0 defeat at Huddersfield Town.
It was his first appearance for North End since playing in the 4-1 FA Cup defeat at Wycombe Wanderers in January.
Immediately following that he was loaned out to Burton Albion, of League One, for the remainder of the campaign.
That has been the tale of Earl’s career so far ever since bursting into the PNE first team at the tender age of 18 during the 2017/18 campaign.
He made 20 appearances during that season – earning a rave review from none other than Harry Redknapp when he was manager of Birmingham City.
The former Tottenham, Portsmouth and West Ham United boss described Earl as “different class” when North End defeated his side 3-1 at St Andrews.
He made 20 first-team appearances during that first season despite the fact that he missed a large chunk of it after sustaining a knee ligament injury.
The following year, he played a further 16 games in the first team, but the next two campaigns saw him allowed out on loan to Bolton Wanderers, Ipswich Town and then Burton.
In that time, his total games in a North End shirt amount to just seven, but Earl revealed that he had held a number of discussions with boss Frankie McAvoy over the summer break.
He is hopeful that he can now go on to enjoy a run of games and rekindle the sort of form that earned him the type of glowing report that he received from Redknapp. “I have a good relationship with the manager,” said Earl.
“The conversations that I had with him over the summer were basically me telling him that I was going to come back as the “old Josh Earl”.
“I told him that I was going to come back fighting for him and be in good shape.
“I am definitely mentally stronger than I was when I first broke into the team.
“It is tough coming in as a young lad. I think I am still a similar player but I’ve gained a little bit more experience and I feel a little bit tougher mentally.”
Earl is philosophical about his lack of chances in recent years but he believes what he has experienced both at Deepdale and while out on loan will stand him in good stead for the future.
He said: “I have had to wait a little while for a chance and that has been down to players in my position playing really well.
“There’s been other factors too so I was really pleased to get back in the side and hopefully I can nail down that spot.
“The loan spell at Burton did not go as well as I would have liked, I did not play as many games as I would have wanted to.
“But I made sure I worked hard over the summer and came back in decent nick.”
Earl was asked to fulfil the left wing-back spot against the Terriers and it is a position he feels suits him.
“I do think the system suits my game,” he said. “I think going forward I can be a bit of a threat and the defensive duties suit my style.
“When I first broke through, I think getting forward was a big part of my game so that’s something which comes quite naturally.”
Earl will be hoping to have done enough to retain his place for this weekend’s visit of Peterborough United.
It has been a far from ideal start for North End after losing their opening three league games, but Earl has urged the fans to stay behind the team. “I know some of the fans have been a bit upset with some of the results so far, which is understandable,” he said.
“But I remember three or four years ago we had a similar sort of start but then went on a winning streak.
“It can all change quite quickly.”