Preston North End's Greg Cunningham is striving for a strong finish to the season and a new contract at Deepdale
Preston North End’s last four matches of the season will see Greg Cunningham working hard on two fronts.
The defender is striving to help PNE achieve a strong finish to the campaign as well as trying to convince the Deepdale hierarchy that he is worth a longer contract.
Cunningham is coming to the end of a short-term deal with the Lilywhites and as he’s just back from time on the sidelines with a calf injury, he’s got a bit of ground to make up.
His next audition for an extended stay is the home clash with Derby County on Tuesday night (7pm).
The Irishman was back in the side for Saturday’s 0-0 draw at Stoke, his first game since March 6.
Cunningham told the Lancashire Post: “Getting a new contract is always going to be in the back of my mind, that’s only natural.
“We are in the middle of April with four games to go.
“Obviously I’m staying as professional as I can and understanding that at this moment in time it is about how the club finishes the season and finishing as high as possible.
“I would like to think that after the season finishes, things would take care of themselves and what will be will be.
“Of course it would be foolish of me to sit here and say I haven’t given it any thought about my future. I have because it’s my future, it’s my career, it’s my passion.
“I would love to have it sorted as soon as possible but at the end of the day I have a job to do.
“Once the season finishes we can have a look to see what the future brings.”
Cunningham is back at the club where he had the best spell of his career.
He made 112 appearances in a three-season stay between 2015 and 2018.
The chance to play in the Premier League saw him leave PNE to sign for Cardiff for £4m but he didn’t really get much of a sniff in South Wales.
A damaged cruciate ligament suffered when on loan at Blackburn kept him out for a big chunk of last season and he returned to PNE in January.
Although the last couple of years could be regarded as a set-back for the 30-year-old, it has not diminished his enthusiasm for the game.
“The fire is still burning stronger than ever, going back to when I was 16 coming across to try and earn a living,” said Cunningham.
“I love the game and I love it here at Preston. As I have got older I have learned a lot more.
“People will say I’ve had a few injuries, my opinion is that it has give me a bit of a breather.
“During my time it has given me the chance to work on various aspects of my game, build up some mental toughness, learn more.
“I feel I’m a more rounded player than I was a few years ago.
“I’m coming to the end of my contract here, I’m not 20 years of age and getting given four-year deals, but even so that builds more hunger.
“For me it is about proving myself day in, day out, proving to everyone who watches the games that I still have a lot to give.”
Cunningham’s second spell at Preston has bridged a tricky spell.
He rejoined under Alex Neil, the manager he worked with in his third and final year of his first spell – a manager he had a huge deal of respect for.
But within two months of Cunningham’s return, Neil was out and replaced by Frankie McAvoy in an interim head coach capacity.
Cunningham was a senior head in the dressing room for anyone to turn to around the time Neil went.
But with managers coming and going in football with increasingly regularity, many of the squad had seen a change of boss at other clubs.
“Maybe it was a first for a couple of the boys but a lot of us had seen changes in our careers,” said Cunningham.
“The boys know the way football operates and we had to be honest with ourselves that our results hadn’t been up to scratch.
“We need to make sure this season doesn’t peter out, we have to try and finish strongly.
“It’s about pride, we need to make sure in these last four games we give everything.”
Cunningham is confident the current season of struggle won’t be repeated.
“When we regroup we will sit down and say that what happened this year can’t happen again,” said Cunningham.
“Many times I have seen clubs in the Championship who have had a lacklustre season by their standards, come back the next season and be up at the other end of the table.
“That is what this division is about, you can never take your foot off the gas.
“We must finish this season strongly, we’ve got four games to play and 12 points to play for, starting with Derby.”
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