Exclusive Ben Davies Preston North End column: Getting used to role as a senior player

In action against Swansea City
In action against Swansea City

Having been a part of Preston North End since the age of 10 when I first joined the academy as a young hopeful, I have grown accustomed to almost revering the senior players within the first-team squad.

So it has been quite a change in mindset for me to think that I am now maybe somebody who is looked up to by the younger players within the club.

The last couple of years or so have been a great time for me personally with the amount of games that I have played at first-team level.

It’s good to think that I have become one of the main players within the squad. It is kind of that development that I have spoken about on many occasions in the past.

The journey I have had coming through the ranks has been a long one.

At some point, you need to have that change in mindset and realise that you’re actually playing quite a lot of games at first-team level, so people look at you in the same way that you used to look at other players.

It’s good but I still feel that I am young and I am still learning all the time.

I am learning from people who are older than me within the squad, which will hopefully make me a better player. It has been a long journey for me. I had several loan spells early in my career and there were times when I thought I might have to move on.

I remember playing at Southport in the National League for a month about four years ago and I must admit, at the time, I found it hard to envisage coming back to Preston and going on to play three seasons in the Championship.

If I am being honest, the thought did not even cross my mind. At that point, I was just focusing on trying to be a better player and in the end, I just trusted the process and used to tell my myself that it would all work out in the end if I kept working hard.

People at the club would keep encouraging me but it’s not down to them.

I would say it’s only since the manager Alex Neil came in that I have felt comfortable playing here. He has shown a lot of faith in me.

Experience is massive in football and I think there is a growing belief among the camp that we are now ready to take that next step and get in the Championship play-offs. For me personally, I feel like that and I am sure the rest of the lads are the same.

We are a young group, but we are all sort of heading towards our peaks years.

It’s just all about experience – you can’t rush it.

There have been a couple of years where we have just missed out on the play-offs but people have said the experience will help.

At the time, it’s been frustrating, but I think now that experience is starting to help us. As a player, you just feel a bit more comfortable – you don’t fear anyone like you might have done in the past and that’s what experience does.

Obviously there are a lot of good players and teams, but that fear has sort of fizzled away a little bit this year.

It has been a decent start for us – to be fifth in the table after seven games is really pleasing.

Obviously, it’s a lot different to last year when we were stuck in the relegation zone and struggling for wins.

I think a good start is really important – it can set your season up.

It’s generally just a happier environment to be in. You can kind of look forward to things a bit more rather than thinking you’re in for a long hard season. Although there are a lot of games still left, if you have a good start and you’re up near the top like we are, you can build momentum, whereas last year we were always playing catch-up and that slow start probably cost us towards the end.

I feel that we probably could have had a couple more points on the boacrd as our away results have not been a good as what we hacve produced at Deepdale, where we have not dropped a point in four games. I don’t think there is anything to worry about – we have performed well on our travels, it’s just that we haven’t picked up the results that we perhaps 
deserved.

Obviously Millwall on the opening day was always going to be tough, but at Swansea we were unlucky to lose and in our last match at Nottingham Forest, we were disappointed to concede a late equaliser. So it’s not like we have been getting hammered or anything – we have been in all of those games and if you think, we have only had three away games, so I don’t think you can judge us yet.

We have got a chance to pick up our first win on the road when we travel to St Andrew’s to take on Birmingham City this weekend.

Like ourselves, they have had a decent start and will be looking to keep that going.