Josh Harrop on why wide role suits him at Preston North End ahead of trip to Middlesbrough

Preston midfielder Josh Harrop attempts to reach a cross in the 3-3 draw with Bristol City at Deepdale
Preston midfielder Josh Harrop attempts to reach a cross in the 3-3 draw with Bristol City at Deepdale

Josh Harrop is enjoying being part of Preston North End’s flexible frontline in a role which he thinks brings the best out of him.

The 23-year-old is 
being used in a role on the left-hand side of the attack, where he is encouraged to cut inside and stretch sides in that manner.

Josh Harrop in action against Manchester City in the Carabao Cup

Josh Harrop in action against Manchester City in the Carabao Cup

Alongside him in North End’s forward line is Tom Barkhuizen and Sean Maguire, with Barkhuizen playing as the central striker and Maguire on the right.

It has been something of a switcharound up there, with Barkhuizen until recently more akin to playing on the wing and Maguire regarded as a No.9.

But the change has been effective and PNE will be looking to extend their good start to the season when they head to Teesside to take on Middlesbrough at the Riverside Stadium.

Harrop said: “You have to be versatile these days and we are all enjoying it.

“Tom Barkhuizen can play at the top because he has got the speed to run in behind. Sean has got the ability to take the ball in and play from the wing.

“It’s working really well at the moment, we are creating chances as a team and the football we are playing is good football.

“We’ve struck up a good understanding on how we play and long may that continue.

“When I see Barky or Sean make a movement, I know what I’m going to do next. We are building up a good understanding.”

Harrop was labelled more as a No.10-type player when he arrived at Deepdale from Manchester United.

But playing from a wider starting position seems to be getting the best out of him.

Said Harrop: “The gaffer lets me roll in off the pocket.

“He plays me out wide on the left but doesn’t want me to stay on the wing – he wants me to come in.

“He’s given me the licence to express myself, take risks in the final third. That is a good thing to have.

“We are doing well at the moment and want to keep that 
going.

“Between games we work hard in training and in the gym to be in top shape for the matches.

“What we do on a Saturday afternoon and a Tuesday night doesn’t just happen by accident, it is down to a lot of work and preparation.”

North End face Boro on the back of Saturday’s 3-3 draw with Bristol City.

The Deepdale clash was eventful to say the least, with six goals and a fair share of controversy.

North End conceded all three goals from set-pieces, something Harrop says will be worked on to put right.

In the grand scheme of things, though, he saw it as a decent result.

Harrop said: “Having been 2-0 down and 3-2 down, I thought to draw 3-3 was a good result at the end of the day.

“I didn’t think we played that badly – actually we played quite well.

“There were bits and pieces in the game which we need to have a look at and work on ready for the next match.

“But it was game which we can take plenty of confidence from. We are a tight-knit squad here.

“If things need to be said about a game, they will be said and nothing is taken in a bad way.

“No one finger-points, we talk about things good and bad and work on them.

“There is a really good chemistry within the group, we get on well off the pitch as well as on it.

“At the training ground you will hear us have a laugh and a joke but as soon as we go on to the pitch to work, we are serious and give it our full concentration.”

Next opponents Boro have not broken any pots 
so far this season, and are sixth-bottom of the table.

They put a new manager in place in the summer, with Jonathan Woodgate replacing the ousted Tony Pulis.

Harrop said: “We don’t underestimate anyone and we will give Middlesbrough our full respect.

“It is all about on the day in a football match. We have to be at it, get our gameplan right and try to impose ourselves. At the moment we are playing well and playing with lots of confidence.”

It is a year since Harrop damaged a cruciate ligament that kept him out of action until pre-season. That is firmly in the past as far as he is concerned, his focus very much in forward mode. He has played eight matches this season, scoring in the first three of those.

Harrop has also had three yellow cards – one more than his good pal Ben Pearson.

“Really? I didn’t realise that,” said Harrop when told about that particular stat.

“I like to throw a leg in there every now and then.

“I used to be a defensive midfielder, that perhaps sounds weird when you see how I play now.

“In terms of my fitness I’m fine now. When I first came back I was cramping up in games a bit which was to be expected. That went after four of five games.”