Preston North End column: Lewis Leigh on making the transition from fan to player at Deepdale

Signing my professional contract with Preston North End last month was a huge moment for me.

Thursday, 9th September 2021, 4:45 pm

I was buzzing, this is my home-town club and the step up I’d wanted to make since joining.

I’d previously been at Liverpool and when that went sideways and Preston became interested, this was where I wanted to be.

Growing up I was a North End fan, I used to sit in the Invincibles Pavilion near to the away fans

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PNE midfielder Lewis Leigh

It was the Joey Garner era, around the time we got promotion from League One.

When Jermaine Beckford scored against Chesterfield in the play-offs I was on the pitch and got a bit crushed!

There’s a football background in the family, my brother Daniel was with Preston before going to join Wigan and Bamber Bridge.

My cousin Tyler Forbes was here at Preston and went on to play for Fleetwood and Brighton.

I was at Liverpool from a really young age, I was only three-and-a-half when my dad took me for a kickabout at the UCLan Sports Arena.

There was some kind of foundation coaching there and Liverpool saw me.

I ended up being at Liverpool until I was 14.

At first it was little fun sessions and from the age of eight we started properly.

It was Monday, Wednesday and Friday training there, then from the Under-12s it was Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday.

When I was 14 I left Liverpool and joined the academy here.

Last season I made the bench for the first-team game at Millwall. I didn’t get on as a substitute but it was a great experience being in and around the squad.

From when we started pre-season training in July, I’ve been with the first-team squad and train with them all the time.

If I need game time and some sharpness, I can still play in the Under-19s which I did last week.

Training with the first-team squad, you notice how quicker it is. That is what you have to adapt to, you have to think quickly and play at a really good pace.

The senior players are great with the young lads, they help and encourage you all the time. They take the time to talk to you.

This season my aim is to establish myself in the squad, get used to training every day at this level and impress the coaching staff.

As a midfielder I want to do a bit of everything. I like to get stuck in but I’m happy to play as a defensive midfielder or an attacking one.

At Liverpool I started off in midfield. Then they moved me to right-back and then back into midfield.

I went to Cottam Primary School and then Ashton High, both schools being really good with me about my football.

When at Ashton High I twice got the chance to play at Deepdale in the Preston Schools’ Finals.

We won the Jack May Cup final, which was great. I think it’s really good how school kids get to play at Deepdale in the finals.

Just recently I’ve been getting myself fully fit again after having Covid.

It was a few weeks ago but I struggled a bit with it.

When I got back training my legs felt like jelly for a bit and it has taken me a while to get back to where I was fitness-wise.

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