PNE youngster is up for fight

Josh Brownhill with Joe Garner (right) in training last week
Josh Brownhill with Joe Garner (right) in training last week
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Preston North End’s Josh Brownhill is aiming to put himself back at the forefront of manager Simon Grayson’s thinking.

The teenage midfielder began last season like a house on fire and was very much a member of North End’s first-choice starting XI in the opening months of the campaign.

After showing terrific form in pre-season, Brownhill featured in 13 of PNE’s first 14 games of the season – the only match he missed was the 3-1 away defeat to Walsall in September, when he was left on the bench.

But after featuring in the 3-2 win over Port Vale at Deepdale in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy in early October, Brownhill’s appearances became more and more infrequent as the season progressed.

He played just 15 more times over the remainder of the season – making just seven starts – as Grayson favoured experience in his quest to lead North End to promotion.

Like fellow young midfielder Alan Browne, Brownhill – who made his debut for PNE at the age of 17 and is still only 19 – found himself on the periphery of the squad and was a spectator in the stands for the majority of the games over the second half of the season.

While Browne won a late recall to the squad and came on as a substitute in the 4-0 play-off final win at Wembley, Brownhill joined in the celebrations at the final whistle wearing his club suit.

“I think I started off very well last season after having a really good pre-season,” Brownhill said. “My form dipped from around Christmas and after when the team was struggling to get wins.

“I think the manager then found a team which started to put a run of wins together and he stuck by that team.

“It was disappointing for me to be sat in the stands at Wembley but it was also great that the team played so well and put in a great performance in the play-off final.

“I was gutted to miss out on that, but pleased that we won promotion because that was the aim at the start of the season.”

In a bid to put himself in the frame for selection for the opening game of the new Championship season against Middlesbrough, Brownhill has put his time off during the close season to good use.

After enjoying a holiday with friends, he then went on a training camp in the Lake District, which was organised by his agent.

It was something he did last summer and the extra training obviously paid dividends judging by his excellent form through pre-season and the early part of the campaign last year.

“I’ve just been keeping fit over the summer,” Brownhill said “I went on a pre-season training camp after coming back from holiday.

“We did everything – running up mountains, biking up mountains, boxing...lots of different things.

“I went on the same thing last year and it helped me get in the team during pre-season and I am hoping to do the same this pre-season.”