Ben Pearson happy with how he has developed at Preston North End after joining from Man Utd

Preston midfield ace Ben Pearson says boss Alex Neil (left) has helped him
Preston midfield ace Ben Pearson says boss Alex Neil (left) has helped him

Ben Pearson will soon hit his fourth anniversary as a Preston player and admits he was like a ‘rabbit in the headlights’ when he first joined from Manchester United.

The midfielder has made 136 appearances in a PNE shirt since January 2016 and the 137th is set to come against Cardiff City today.

Pearson is pleased with his development as a player since coming to Deepdale and feels this season he has been able to focus on his use of the ball more than in previous years.

“I’m quite long-serving here , I’d just turned 21 when I signed,” said Pearson.

“When I first joined I struggled quite a lot with getting used to the speed of the game compared to League One where I’d been playing on loan at Barnsley.

“At first I was a bit like a rabbit in the headlights and you find yourself asking, ‘Am I good enough’?

“The more games I played the more I realised that I was good enough.”

With North End playing a more expansive game at home this season, Pearson has found himself on the ball more.

Although he might have made his name at PNE as more of a ball-winner and holding midfielder, he enjoys being in possession and building play.

Said Pearson: “When I was 17 or 18, I was much better on the ball than I was off the ball.

“As I moved through the levels and started to play against senior players, I felt the need to compete better.

“I focused my game more on that side of things and got better at it.

“This season our style of play has changed. Okay, in the last few games we have gone a bit more direct. But earlier on in the season we were playing through the thirds a lot more which suited me better.

“Playing that way meant I was having to tackle less which was probably a good thing with the bookings.”

Pearson, who turns 25 early in the New Year, thinks he is playing in the best North End side since joining.

“I think player for player we are the best since I came here,” said Pearson.

“It is the mentality more than anything which has changed and strengthened.

“When I first arrived we would go into games thinking the opposition were the better side and we would do well to get a point or a win, whereas now, with the gaffer coming in, the mentality we take into games is that we want to win it and think we can win it.

“That is a big difference and we’ve improved.

“The gaffer has really helped me – he used to play my position so understands that role and what the pros and cons are.

“Tactically he is better than most – sit through his meetings and you realise how thorough he is.”