Preston midfielder Josh Harrop is convinced he has come back from injury a far better player than before.
The 23-year-old made his first Championship start on Wednesday night since recovering from rupturing his anterior cruciate knee ligament almost a year ago.
Harrop capped his return with a goal as North End swept aside Stoke City 3-1 at Deepdale.
He scored the third of the night, joining Daniel Johnson and Billy Bodin on the scoresheet.
It was fitting that Harrop and Bodin should score – they both suffered identical injuries last year and worked together, pushing each other, on the long road to recovery.
As well as the physical rehabiliation they undertook, Harrop revealed he and Bodin also analysed their own games in order to come back better players.
“I think mentally you have a lot to reflect on and look at,” he said.
“Everything you have done up to that point in your football career, you start to look back on.
“You think about that and you think about all the things you want to do when you come back. It gives you a hunger inside to do more and do better.
“I am hoping the Preston fans will see the real Josh Harrop this year.
“I want to get my head down and do as well as I can for the club.”
Harrop admitted he was surprised to last the full 90 minutes against City and revealed the secret to his longevity on the night – pickle juice!
He added: “The boss asked me a couple of times, ‘How are the legs feeling’?
“I sort of said that I didn’t know if I had the full 90 minutes in my legs, but I needed them.
“Tom Little (fitness coach) then gave me some pickle juice!
“I thought it was water, went to drink it and found out it was pickle juice.
“Tom just told me to spit it out – it will help with the cramps.
“I got through it so I’m happy.”
Harrop – who will be hoping to keep his place for this afternoon’s visit of Sheffield Wednesday – was part of a fluid attacking quartet on Wednesday which was too much for Stoke.
With Tom Barkhuizen’s pace stretching the play, Harrop, Bodin and Johnson were able to utilise their creative skills in the spaces in behind.
It was a link-up between himself and Johnson which led to Harrop scoring in the 69th minute.
“I actually passed to DJ and I was thinking just go and score – I’ll take the assist,” said Harrop.
“The rebound fell to me and I just swung a left and it’s gone in.”