Paul Huntington is aiming to get more sharpness into the legs in Preston’s pre-season friendly against his former club Newcastle tomorrow.
The Lilywhites return to Deepdale (3pm) for the first time since April, the visit of the Magpies a big step up in preparations.
To date, North End’s opponents in pre-season have come from non-league and League Two.
Huntington played an hour of Wednesday’s 3-2 win over Accrington Stanley, having come on as a sub the evening before at Morecambe.
“Some of us got a 60 against Accrington, others had done that at Morecambe, while a couple of lads did the full 90,” Huntington told the Post.
“It is hard to replicate league games in a friendly but it is beneficial to get game-time and build sharpness.
“Newcastle will be a big test for us, as will Burnley when they come here on Tuesday.
“We need to be playing against that type of side as part of our build-up.
“In the league we will be coming up against teams who offer different challenges in terms of system and tactics.”
Huntington kicked off his career at Newcastle, making 16 first-team appearances.
Spells followed at Leeds, Stockport and Yeovil, and he has very much put down roots at Preston – this will be his sixth season here.
As well as getting fitness in the tank, pre-season for the PNE squad this time has also involved getting to know the approach new boss Alex Neil favours.
“The training has been good so far,” said the 29-year-old.
“We learn from every session and every game, it is about us taking things on board.
“It is not going to happen straight away but the signs have been very positive so far.
“We are going to play out from the back a lot more, there will be more passes into the midfield and building play up through the pitch.
“In the friendlies so far, I’d say 95% has been good but there are still areas to work on.
“This is a new start here for everyone really.
“As Peter Ridsdale told us on the morning we came back for pre-season training, we’d had Simon Grayson for nearly four-and-a-half years.
“That stability was good and helped us achieve a lot of success. We are now looking to build something good under the new manager.”