Preston North End centre-half Ben Davies enjoyed being put to the test by Manchester City and hopes coming up against Premier League opponents can become a regular occurrence.
Davies was named PNE’s man of the match in the midweek clash with City at Deepdale.
North End might have lost 3-0 but Davies put in an assured display against Pep Guardiola’s men.
He and his defensive team-mates had Raheem Sterling, Gabriel Jesus and Bernardo Silva to deal with, a front line which would stretch a top-flight defence, let alone one from the Championship.
Far from seeing the loss as a negative, 24-year-old Davies wants to use it as a positive experience.
Davies said: “Playing City was good. I enjoyed Deepdale being full. When Deepdale is full for a night match,it really is brilliant – the best around.
“City sent a strong team and that was a great test because it let you know how far off you are.
“Their movement was good but it wasn’t just that, it was the sharpness and pace they did it at.
“You could read that movement but sometimes not quickly enough to get over and stop it.
“I was glad to get the chance to play against them and as a player you want to play the best.
“Not every Premier League club would have sent a team that strong.
“When the team sheet came out, we were reading their team from the back to the forwards.
“There were a couple of young lads at the back and that gave us a bit of hope.
“But then you looked at their front six and that was unreal.
“I’d rather have played against players like that than kids.
“Had Manchester City sent a young side they would still have been very good because they get the best young players.
“But it was the test against the experienced players that we wanted and I’m sure that is what the fans wanted to see too.
“What I noticed about their players was that they seemed a good group.
“During the handshake and when you were with them off the pitch, they were very respectful.
“You play against some Championship players who look at you like they are miles better – they aren’t. The City players are miles better but they had a bit of class about them. I liked that.”
It is another ‘City’ on Saturday for North End in the shape of Bristol City.
And it is a contest which brings former Preston players Josh Brownhill and Bailey Wright back to Lancashire.
Wright has only had a limited involvement this season due to injury but Brownhill is thriving with the Robins.
In fact, he has been captaining Lee Johnson’s men this season.
Davies and Brownhill were an age group apart in PNE’s youth system.
“Josh was a year below me here,” said Davies. “He was always a good player in the youth team and I thought he was good in the first team.
“Alan Browne came in and got ahead of him and the club allowed Josh to move on.
“I think Josh has had the armband this season, which is great for him.
“He’s that kind of lad, to be honest. He’ll be good at that.
“The manager down there has seen that in him and given Josh the extra responsibility.”
North End go into the visit from the Robins in third place, having taken 16 points from their first eight league matches.
In the Championship they are unbeaten in five games, four of those being victories.
It is not a surprise to learn that Davies is pleased with how things have gone to date.
He has played every moment of the league games, the only outfield player to do so – keeper Declan Rudd has done likewise.
Davies said: “We have had a really good start and to be third in the table is pleasing.
“We’ve only played eight games, though, so it’s just a start.
“It is a long season and a lot of hard work will be needed but overall we can be pleased with how we have started.
“We have all continued to develop as players and get that extra experience.
“The more you play, the more comfortable you feel playing at this level.
“My parthership with Patrick Bauer is going well. We’ve had a couple of clean sheets recently, which we needed.
“We felt we should have had a few clean sheets in some of the earlier games but that didn’t happen.
“I’m still learning about playing next to Patrick but I feel comfortable.
“We will grow stronger with the more games we play and as we learn one another’s strengths and weaknesses.
“Hopefully we can keep our good run going when we play Bristol City.
“Like us, they have made a good start and have some good players.
“Bristol City are a threat going forward, so it’s going to be tough but it’s one we are looking forward to.”