Ben Davies says he had some ‘strong emotional feelings’ this season after nailing down a regular place in the centre of Preston’s defence.
The Barrow boy made 34 Championship appearances and carried off PNE’s young player of the year award.
There was a four-year gap between his return to the team last August and Davies’ previous league appearance in a North End shirt.
In the meantime he played just a handful of times in cup competitions for Preston and gained first-team experience when out on loan.
Contrast that to this term when he was one of the first names on the team-sheet.
Davies said: “It feels good to have got out there and played regular first-team football for Preston.
“There had been plenty of times in the last few years when I thought that might not happen.
“I’m just grateful to have got the chance to play and to have done well when I got the opportunity.
“When I was out on loan I was not sure what direction I was going in.
“You just have to dig in and believe, so to be back here and playing means a lot.
“There have been times this season when I have had strong emotional feelings walking off the pitch after a win as I had waited so long for that to happen.”
Davies initially chopped and changed with Tommy Spurr for a place in the centre of PNE’s defence.
But from September he made the slot his own and struck up a good partnership with Paul Huntington.
Only in the closing weeks of the season did that break up as Tom Clarke’s experience was preferred over Davies.
The 22-year-old missed the final game against Burton due to a groin injury. Davies admits to a sense of frustration that North End just missed out on the top six.
But he thinks they will right back in the mix next season.
Said Davies: “The main thing was that we did our job on the last day and won.
“There was nothing we could do about what Derby did in their game.
“It would have been really disappointing if we hadn’t got a result and Derby had slipped up – but we both won.
“We are in good shape for next season and we’ll go again.
“At the start of the season no one really expected us to be up there, so we surprised a few people.
“If we come back and keep everyone together, we have got a great chance next season.
“We are a tight-knit group here, we worked for the same thing.
“Going into next season we will have more games under our belts, more experience, and hopefully we can make that count.”