PNE’s ‘Jack of all trades’

Jack King can play in many 'different positions
Jack King can play in many 'different positions
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Jack King admits there is some weight to the argument that he is a victim of his own versatility.

The 29-year-old Preston ace made his 100th appearance for the club on Sunday in the 1-1 draw against Fleetwood Town at Highbury Stadium.

Surprisingly, it was King’s first start for North End since January 3, when he helped the team claim the scalp of Championship outfit Norwich City in the FA Cup at Deepdale.

Since then, he has been very much on the periphery of the squad.

Up until last weekend’s game, he had been limited to just three substitute appearances – one in the FA Cup and two in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy .

On many occasions, the former Woking player has been kicking his heels in the stands during games – left out of the squad altogether.

In fact, when PNE boss Simon Grayson gave him the nod against Fleetwood, it was the first time he had tasted any League One action since coming on as a 87th-minute substitute in the 1-0 win over Peterborough United at Deepdale on December 20.

With Bailey Wright away on international duty last weekend, Grayson deployed King as part of a defensive-three formation against the Cod Army.

Previously, the vast majority of his 26 appearances during this term had come in midfield, although last year he was used predominantly as a defender.

Since signing for North End in the summer of 2012, King has been utilised as a striker and has also featured at full-back.

It means he is always perceived as a utility player who has no specialist position.

King is philosophical about his ‘Jack of all trades’ tag.

While admitting it may hinder his ability to hold down a regular spot in the starting XI, he also argues it has helped him to reach a century of appearances for the club.

“It is hard to get consistency when you’re changing position,” King said. “Even during training, I train in different positions.

“Sometimes, I will train with the defenders, sometimes I will train with the midfielders.

“But at the same time it probably helps me to be in and around the team.

“I know I have different roles to play in the squad. It’s probably helped me play more games than I would have done if I just played one position.

“I think it works for and against. It works against me in terms of trying to nail down a regular spot in the team. But it works for me in that I am able to stay in and around the team.”

While being used in defence against Graham Alexander’s men was no alien concept for King, he did illustrate his versatility as a defender.

When he enjoyed a regular place in the team towards the back end of last season, it was as the central defender in a back three.

However, on Sunday, Grayson asked him to play on the right. “I have played in a back three quite a few times,” King said.

“But normally it’s usually in the centre in a sweeper-style role.

“The role I was given on Sunday was slightly different in that I was on the right-hand side, with the skipper Tom Clarke in the centre and Paul Huntington on the left.

“I thought I adapted okay and we did what we had to do.

“We defended really well. Apart from the goal, I can’t remember them having too many shots on goal.”

With Wright back from international duty, Grayson faces a selection headache for Friday’s League One clash against Rochdale at Deepdale.

Much depends on the fitness of Huntington, who was stretchered off against Fleetwood with a head injury and the formation Grayson decides to use.

King is hoping to have done enough to keep his place in the team for the visit of Keith Hill’s men.

“The team has been doing well over the last few months,” King said. “I have had to bide my time and be patient. With there being a few lads away on international duty, the gaffer showed a bit of faith in me and decided to throw me in there. I hope I repaid his faith.

“It has been difficult not being in the teambut you only have to look at Paul Huntington as a prime example.

“He didn’t get much of a look-in last season but he kept himself fit and got his chance this season and hasn’t looked back. I think that is a lesson to us all.”

The fact that King has now reached three figures for North End is a great source of pride for him.

He said: “I did not know what to expect when I first came here. I was stepping up quite a few leagues and I don’t think many people were expecting much from me.

“I am proud to have played a hundred games for such a good club and I’m hoping there’s more to come.”

King would dearly love to cap his time at Preston with promotion this season, which would undoubtedly be the highlight of his career.

“To get promoted will be something special for not just me, but for all the lads,” King said.

“The goal has always been to get the club back in the Championship and hopefully we can push on in the final few games of the season.”