Preston North End defender Paul Huntington keen to prolong his career after Deepdale farewell against Middlesbrough

Paul Huntington has no thoughts about retirement as he prepares to say an emotional goodbye to Preston North End after 10 years of fine service.

By Dave Seddon
Thursday, 5th May 2022, 4:45 pm
Updated Friday, 6th May 2022, 1:44 pm

Part one of his farewell will come at Deepdale on Saturday when he will be in PNE’s matchday squad for the season’s final game against play-off chasing Middlesbrough (12.30pm).

That’s likely to be a sequel in July when the Lilywhites stage a testimonial game for him as part of their pre-season schedule – Huntington returning for a cameo part in that.

Huntington is leaving North End this summer when his contract runs out, the club announcing the news before the end of the campaign so that he can have a proper send-off.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

Paul Huntington will leave Preston North End this summer after 10 years at Deepdale

The 34-year-old was on media duty at Euxton on Thursday morning, talk of the Middlesbrough game somewhat side-tracked by reporters wanting to take him down memory lane of the last decade.

He won’t be hanging up the boots once the final whistle blows on the 2021/22 season though, with next season and beyond very much on his mind.

Huntington told the Lancashire Post: “I don’t feel old, I’ve got a lot to offer yet.

"When I had my meeting with the gaffer on Wednesday, Mike Marsh was in on it too. Marshy said the training had never been a problem for me and he was right.

Paul Huntington celebrates scoring in Preston North End's League One play-off final win over Swindon at Wembley

"I’ve trained every day, I’ve always been available.

"We have a big squad here, the numbers are high, there are a lot of pros. I get it, I understand where they were coming from when it was explained there wouldn’t be another contract. That’s football.

"Hopefully some good opportunities will come up, ideally up north but otherwise I will travel for the next couple of years.

"Even before this all became official, the manager was saying he’d has calls about me and I’ve had a few phone calls too.

Paul Huntington in action for Preston North End against Reading in January 2021

"There were a few things in January but they were towards the end of the window and didn’t quite suit at the time.

"I’m not just looking for an old people’s home, I’m looking to get better and make a contribution somewhere. It might helping with a promotion push in League One or helping a team towards the bottom end of the Championship. I’ll see what comes up.”

Read More

Read More
Preston North End's 'Cumbrian Cannavaro' is to leave Deepdale this summer after ...

Huntington joined North End in June 2012, among the big group of players brought in during Graham Westley’s summer revolution.

Paul Huntington on his 300th appearance for Preston North End, that against Birmingham City in January 2021

Westley was the first of five full-time managers he’s played under, Simon Grayson, Alex Neil, Frankie McAvoy and now Ryan Lowe the others.

He’s a fully signed-up member of PNE’s 300 club, his 300th appearance in a Preston shirt coming in a 1-0 win over Birmingham in January 2021.

Going into the Middlesbrough match, Huntington had 305 games under his belt and Lowe intends extending that to 306 at some point on Saturday afternoon.

All those games will tell their own particular story but naturally there are some which stand out more clearly than others.

The League One play-off final against Swindon at Wembley on May 25, 2015, is a highlight.

Huntington scored in the 4-0 win, that big day out coming just three weeks after the chance of automatic promotion was crushed by a last-day defeat at Colchester.

Casting his mind back seven years, Huntington said: “Whenever people talk to me about Wembley, they always ask why I ran to the manager to celebrate my goal. To be honest, I just could have kept on running for miles such the moment!

"We couldn’t have asked for it to go any better, we were 3-0 up by half-time and scored a fourth not too long after half-time.

"Before the game was there was a lot of talk about the play-offs but we were quite a new group and didn’t really know too much about the history. To us it was just another game and we needed to get the job done.

"That was a great group of lads to be involved in, all were very good footballers for that level. We’d fallen short a year before which might have been a blessing for me because that was the summer I could have moved on having not been involved much.

"For the play-offs to turn out how they did so soon after Colchester was amazing.

"There was a pitch invasion at the final whistle at Colchester and I was on the floor, I was so disappointed.

"I remember their fitness coach picking me up and saying ‘You’ll be alright mate, you’ve got the play-offs and you’ll win it’.

"That has always stuck with me and one day I’d like to meet that guy and thank him for those words. I appreciated it.”

Huntington’s longevity at Deepdale is something he’s proud of. There were a few times over the last decade when he was out of the picture and seemingly surplus to requirement.

So for him to be 26th in the list of PNE appearance makers is some achievement.

"To play that many games for one club is special,” said Huntington.

"Playing my 300th game against Birmingham last season was a great feeling, especially with us winning it.

“The kitman printed me up a 300 shirt and it was nice to talk about at the time.

"But in football you’ve got to consistently move on, it’s about what can be achieved in the here and now, it’s about striving to get better.

"It’s been a pleasure to play here and hopefully we can finish the season well against Middlesbrough.”