Exclusive Declan Rudd PNE column

Collecting a cross against Bolton last month
Collecting a cross against Bolton last month

If I’m chosen for the Preston North End team this weekend it will be the first time that I have faced my old club Norwich City, so personally it will be a big occasion.

When we played Norwich away in November I was just getting back fit so I was on the bench.

At the end of the day it is a game of football and one we need to win.

Once you cross the white line and the whistle goes, the colour of the jersey you are facing doesn’t matter – it is all about winning the game.

I was eight when I joined Norwich and this would have been my 20th year there had I stayed.

They saw me playing for my local team and I actually went there as an outfield player.

I got told I wasn’t quite good enough but when I was invited back for a second trial, my team was short of a keeper.

We had to rotate, a few of us had a go at being a keeper, I had a blinder and the rest is history.

I wasn’t particularly tall for my age at the time, it was during my teens that I grew and got to the height I am now.

My development wasn’t a particularly quick one, there were a couple of times when Norwich almost released me.

Fortunately they stuck with me and I’ve always been a hard worker which helped get me through.

Norwich were my local club, my dad and grandad grew up watching them and I watched them as a kid.

But it’s all about Preston now and my focus is on our push for the play-offs.

While we have our own expectations, there is not the pressure on us in terms that we are being chased.

The teams above will be looking over their shoulders but we shouldn’t have any nerves – we are chasing and that is our challenge.

Of course we would like to be higher up but this is the position we are in and we have to push from there.

In the last two games we have shown the character to get us back in the chase.

We could have crumbled after the run of three defeats, sat there and felt sorry for ourselves.

While we then fell behind in both the games against Leeds and QPR, we fought back to win them.

I think that showed the mentality we have within the squad – we don’t give up and will go right to the end.

Last week at Loftus Road we got ourselves 2-1 ahead and then dug in to keep that advantage.

I’ve said from day one here that the lads defend as a team, from the No.9 position through to the centre-backs, everyone puts in a shift.

As a goalkeeper, it is real a pleasure to be involved in that and know that the lads in front of you are willing to dig in to get a result.

We like to do the dirty stuff as well as the nicer stuff at the top end of the pitch.

Now we have three games ahead of us to try and get into the top six.

If we win on Saturday, we keep ourselves in the race for the one after that.

The aim is to be going into the last game of the season against Burton Albion with something riding on it.

That is a challenge which we are all up for.

When I signed for Preston in the summer, the talk was more about improving on the last couple of years when we had finished 11th.

I think we have taken things on from there, made more progress.

Last season, there was a bit of a push for the play-offs late on but that petered out.

This year we have kept things going and that is all credit to the manager – he has pushed us on and kept believing.

The players have stayed strong too, we have always believed in what we are doing and what we are capable of.

Earlier in the season we had a little taste of being in the top six and enjoyed that.

Results dipped when we got a few injuries and had to put out a makeshift team.

But once lads started to return, we worked our way back into the mix and now we are in the position we’re in to push for the play-offs.

Like everyone else, when we come in after a game we will always have a look at how the other results have gone.

When we lost those three games on the bounce, we were fortunate in that a lot of results went in our favour and no one pulled away.

Typically when we beat Leeds the other week, all the teams around us won.

Things were better after the QPR game, in that a few teams dropped points and that saw us move up.

It’s all about what we do first and foremost. If we don’t do our job, it doesn’t matter how other teams do.

If we win a game, we’ve done our job for that day and then we can have a look at the other results with interest.

Hopefully we can be doing that on Saturday and stay in the play-off race.