Sylvan Ebanks-Blake hopes that signing for Preston North End on New Year’s Day can signal a new start in his career.
It was only 15 minutes into 2015 that the striker put pen to paper on a contract with PNE until the end of the season.
The 28-year-old’s aim over the coming weeks is to kick-start a career which has stuttered over the last couple of seasons after such a promising time at Wolves and Plymouth before that.
Twice a Golden Boot winner at Wolves, his only football in the 18 months after leaving Molineux came in a spell with Ipswich.
He spent the first half of this season on trial at a couple of clubs in a bid to land a contract.
Those training stints were not long enough for him to show his worth, something which changed when he came to North End at the end of November.
Simon Grayson offered him the chance to train for an extended spell, enabling the PNE boss to take a considered view rather than making a snap judgement.
Ebanks-Blake said: “Signing a few minutes into New Year was just the way it worked out.
“I was in the hotel and had training on New Year’s Day.
“Preston wanted to get the deal done so we signed it.
“That was the important thing – New Year, new start.”
Ebanks-Blake admits that he still has more work to do in order to get up to full speed and fitness.
He has had a bit of game time at North End this week to start the process of building up his match fitness.
Against Norwich last Saturday he had a five-minute cameo as a substitute, then got quarter-of-an-hour in Wednesday night’s defeat to Walsall.
More game time could follow when the Lilywhites head over the Pennines this weekend to play Sheffield United at Bramall Lane.
“I’m still definitely playing catch-up, The lads have played half a season of football and had a pre-season,” said Ebanks-Blake.
“When you have that rhythm and you are playing games all the time, it is second nature.
“For me, I have to build up and get back to that level when it is natural to play every Saturday and Tuesday.
“I’m still building up…luckily I’m being given the time to do that here.
“Working hard starts at the training ground. Then I’ll be coming on in games here and there to get minutes.
“Then I want to get into the team and stay in there. A first goal would bed me in nicely.
“But it is about breaking into the team and that goal will come.
“I work with our fitness coach Tom Little closely, doing extra work in the mornings and after training.
“I have to do what I can. You can’t beat match fitness, which just comes from playing games.
“I do as much as I can to get close to that before the matches start to come.”
Ebanks-Blake is grateful to Preston for giving him the time to get fit before making a decision over whether or not to offer him a contract.
He feels comfortable in his new environment and hopes it is not too long before he is able to show his best form.
He said: “ I’ve been here a few weeks and it has been good.
“I have played with a couple of the lads before at other clubs – Kyel Reid and Scott Laird.
“It is a good set of lads here, a good team spirit and I’m glad to be here.
“There is a lot of quality here. Some of the players have played at the top level, some at a higher level and others who are hungry to move up the leagues.
“It is a good mix of lads and a good team which goes without saying.
“When I first came, Simon Grayson told me he would give me the time to get fit…would work with me to build up my fitness.
“I appreciated that and took the opportunity with both hands.
“I’m just glad it worked out well and I got to sign the contract.
“But there is still a lot more work to do.
“The last few months have been a different experience for me, having a couple of injuries, being without a contract and going to different clubs to train.
“Football is about experiences and I have brought those experiences here.
“With the manager having given me time to show my worth, I’m glad it has worked out.
“Constantly you are trying to prove yourself in football.
“The minute you stop trying to prove yourself – wanting to come in and train hard – is the day you should retire.
“Every player around the country and around the world is trying to prove themselves and I’m no different.
“I’m only 28, I had a couple of injuries which have forced me to miss a lot of football. There is a lot more football in me, it is about me applying myself and hopefully it will go well.”
After the 2-0 Deepdale defeat to Walsall in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy, Preston will look to hit form again at Bramall Lane.
It is one of two games against the Blades in a fortnight, with the Yorkshire outfit paying a return visit in the FA Cup.
Said Ebanks-Blake: “It is going to be a difficult game for us but also a difficult game for Sheffield United.
“We are looking forward to it and want to bounce back from Wednesday night’s defeat.
“Everyone is geared up for it.”