Exclusive Declan Rudd PNE column

Face to face with Aston Villa's Lewis Grabban at Villa Park
Face to face with Aston Villa's Lewis Grabban at Villa Park

There was a three-year gap between the end of my time on loan here at Preston and coming back last summer but it felt like I had never been away.

While the first few months were tough because of the thigh injury I got early in pre-season and did again as I tried to come back, it is all good now.

I’m really enjoying playing again in a team which has been performing so well this season – that has made my job a lot easier.

The fact that I played here before has definitely helped me this season.

I’m playing in front of the same fans, some of the same players, while the gaffer knew me from Norwich too.

It wasn’t as if I had to prove myself to anyone in terms of being an unknown signing, it has not been about first impressions.

I don’t think you could have written the script for my first six months back here.

Two house purchases fell through so I was stuck in a hotel for quite a time while my wife and little girl were still in Norwich.

There was the change of manager a few weeks after I had signed and there were the changes of goalkeeper coaches – it certainly hasn’t been boring!

Things have settled down now, we’ve bought a house and we’ve got a baby boy on the way in two weeks.

As I started off by saying, it was a very familiar club I walked back into last July.

The fact the club had not changed a lot is a positive thing.

Obviously there are new players from 2014 but the club is still very grounded and everyone knows exactly what their job is. No one thinks they are bigger than the club, all the lads and staff give 100% every day to keep us going forward.

The club doesn’t think it is something it’s not, it gets on with its job day to day.

I was at Norwich when they were in League One and went through to the Premier League.

Looking back, I just think they changed too quickly.

It is a pleasure to come in every day here, this is a very enjoyable place to work.

You look at Burnley and they have the same kind of model as us.

They have kept grounded in the Premier League, kept a cap on wages and all of their squad have the same frame of mind.

It shows that with a little bit of patience, good things can be achieved.

My first loan spell with Preston started five years ago, my debut coming away at Yeovil, which was Graham Westley’s final game.

I’ve always said that I was so grateful for getting that chance to come here and I played 70 games over the next 18 months.

If it wasn’t for North End giving me that chance, I don’t know where I’d be now in terms of my career.

The chance to come back as a permanent signing came last summer.

I was told by Norwich that I wouldn’t be getting much in the way of game-time so I decided to move on.

There were a couple of other options but Preston was the one for me.

Once Norwich gave me the okay to leave, I spoke with the people here and we got it done in a couple of days.

Maybe it was something I could have done before but saying that, I still had some good times at Norwich.

I played in the Premier League, with the gaffer here giving me that opportunity when he was in charge down there.

We make the short trip to Bolton this weekend and I think it is the ideal game to have after what happened against Ipswich.

In the two weeks before the Ipswich game, we had played three great sides in Brentford, Wolves and Aston Villa.

We played with 10 men for the first two, and maybe last week we just ran out of steam and ideas.

As a squad, we learn from every game and hopefully we can improve at Bolton.

We have re-charged our batteries this week and are all looking forward to a derby game where we will have a big following of fans.

This is a game where we are looking to get back on track – sixth place in still there for us.

There is still time, it is more than do-able with 12 games to go.

Just looking back to the Villa game, that was probably the busiest I have been since I got back into the team.

I made a couple of saves early on but one thing we do well now which we did when I was first here, is defend our goal.

The lads work their socks off in front of me – it starts from the front.

The Villa game saw our second best running stats of the season and we created a lot of good chances.