It's Captain Cannavaro

Sometimes wearing the captain's armband and the sense of responsibility  which goes with it can weigh heavily on a footballer.

By The Newsroom
Sunday, 8th October 2017, 12:44 pm
Updated Tuesday, 12th December 2017, 2:10 am
Paul Huntington
Paul Huntington

But the opposite could be said of Paul Huntington who has thrived doing the job of Preston North End skipper over the last month or so.

The senior figure in the Lilywhites back four, indeed one of the older heads in the whole of the squad, has been a consistent performer this season.

Huntington – nicknamed the Cumbrian Cannavaro by some fans – is one of three ever-presents in Championship action for PNE this season and since the 1-0 win over Reading on August 19 has been leading the team.

For those watching from the stands, the 30-year-old appears to have become a lot more vocal on the pitch in terms of communicating with the referee in his role as skipper.

But the player himself does not think he has been using his voice any more than usual since being given the armband.

“To be fair, I have always been like that,” Huntington said.

“I was captain at Yeovil before coming here and I had to be vocal there.

“Sometimes because I’m a running from centre-half to speak to the referee, it might look like I’m being more vocal than I actually am.

“If I was in midfield, it might not look like I’m talking as much with the referee because you can just have a quiet word as the play goes on.

“When I’m running over and maybe a bit out of breath, it looks like I’m doing a bit more talking and can sometimes come across not how it is happening.

“It is good to be skipper, a job I’m proud to do and I’ll do it for as long as the gaffer wants me to.”

For the first few games of the campaign, it was Greg Cunningham wearing the armband.

He had been appointed to the job by Alex Neil in the absence of Tom Clarke – out since the latter stages of last season with a torn Achilles tendon.

But serious injury was to hit Cunningham in the 1-0 defeat at Derby on August 15.

The Irishman is not due back for some time, the turn of the year a rough estimate.

Having the armband aside, it is not a surprise to learn that Huntington is enjoying the season.

North End have started the campaign well, with them beaten only once in the first two months.

Encouraged by Neil to play on the front foot and be more attacking, Preston have served-up some decent football.

Three recent home draws might be regarded as a slight bump in the road but overall they are heading in the right direction.

Said Huntington: “You can see that work-rate and passion are a given with this group of players.

“You can never fault the fact that we want to learn and get better.

“There is a good team spirit here, the squad has a good blend of experience and youth.

“We have some great young hungry players and as a squad as a collective we are only going to get better.

“On a personal level, I’m really enjoying working with the manager.

“He is very well qualified as a coach and works hard with us.”

Huntington is North End’s joint longest-serving player with John Welsh.

The pair joined in the summer of 2012, one which saw a big influx of new players.

They are the survivors and have served PNE loyally for more than five years.

Huntington passed the 200 appearance mark in PNE colours at the end of last season and is putting more on the clock as this campaign goes on.

He might have had more already were it not for spells out of the team at various stages.

The defender has always bounced back, hence him being in his sixth season.

Huntington went from December 2013 to October 2014 playing just once in the league.

Returning to the side for a night game at Gillingham, he scored the winner and went on to win the player of the year award for the 2014/15 campaign.

That finished with him scoring in the play-off final at Wembley, one of nine goals that term.

Last term, Huntington started only two league games until December.

On regaining his place, he started every match in the Championship until the final day at Wolves when he came on as a second-half substitute.

North End have spent the international break in sixth place, with them being as high as fourth on a couple of occasions last month.

They resume action at Craven Cottage on Saturday where they take on Fulham.

It is a tough one to come back to, as is the visit to Wolves a week later.

Back-to-back Deepdale dates with Brentford and Aston Villa follow – the Villa game is on television – then they head to Ipswich before yet another international break comes along.

But a daunting-looking start to the campaign was negotiated well and Neil will be looking for Preston to face this next challenge with the same confidence.

Huntington has for the last few games built-up a steady partnership with Ben Davies.

Having been loaned out a number of times in the last few seasons, Davies is taking his chance at the moment.