Exclusive column from Preston North End's Graham Burke

After a few weeks of hard work and toil on the training ground, the first game of the season is almost upon us.

Thursday, 2nd August 2018, 5:00 pm
In action against Burnley at Deepdale in pre-season

It is the first game which is your target, the one you want to be ready for.

This week has been about tweaking a few things, a bit of a fine-tune if you like.

For myself being new at Preston, this is an exciting time and I can’t wait to be at Deepdale ready for Queens Park Rangers’ visit.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

I’ve settled here really well and I can’t thank the boys enough for helping me do that.

Throughout the dressing room is a great bunch of lads and to be welcomed in the way I have is superb.

Having quite a few Irish lads to gravitate to, has been a big help as well – whether that is going out for a bite to eat or socialising, it has helped me a lot.

I think if you went through all the age groups here, there would be enough Irish lads for an 11-a-side team!

The club seem to like bringing Irish players over and it has served them well.

I arrived to join Preston at the end of June part-way through the season in the League of Ireland.

The season was probably more than halfway gone and that had to be considered in what I was doing here.

I had a good base level of fitness from the five or six months of football with Shamrock Rovers.

But it was still important that I got a pre-season done here to get my body right for the English season.

Maybe I dealt with all the hard work a bit better than if I’d had six or seven weeks off. It probably meant it wasn’t quite as intense as it was for the other lads.

The staff looked after me well, had a look at the work and made sure I wasn’t going to pick up any niggles.

I’ve come through feeling very fit, had a good balance of training and time in the matches.

My time with Shamrock Rovers before signing for Preston is something I will always be grateful for.

I can’t thank them enough for helping me to get where I am today.

The lads were superb and the manager did so much to nurture my game and help push me back in the right direction.

I’m proud to have played for Shamrock Rovers and score goals for them.

It is a big club in Ireland, one with a proud history and the name is one which many people quickly recognise.

Obviously I keep a close watch on how they get on and I wish them well.

In the League of Ireland there are some good players.

Some people might not take a lot of notice of the league but obviously Preston have done.

The boys who have come over have shown they can play at this level and that is testament to the League of Ireland.

My experience of the league was brilliant and it helped me in so many ways.

I broke into the Republic of Ireland squad during my time there, so it is all very positive for me.

Something which will help me settle even more here is me getting my own place this week.

I got the keys a couple of days ago and it will be nice to move out of the hotel.

My girlfriend will be pleased about that because, while the hotel is nice for a time, it is a bit restrictive.

During the day it’s fine for me because I’m at training.

Thankfully she has made friends with some of the other lads’ girlfriends and can go out with them.

At least with your own place, you’ve got the freedom to move round and do what you want, when you want.

Back to football matters and we all wish Billy Bodin and Sean Maguire speedy recoveries from the injuries they got in the last few days.

Billy’s injury was a real nasty one and it looks like he will be out for quite a while, which is never nice for any footballer.

That was a freak accident in training, there was really nothing to it.

There was no one near him and his knee twisted as he turned.

Billy will get all the care and treatment he needs and I’m sure he will come back stronger for the experience.

For Sean, it’s a hamstring injury which will keep him out for a few weeks and he’s frustrated about that.

Both are big players for 
us and for them to be missing is a blow, no doubt about that.

But we have other lads in the squad who can come in and stake a claim, that is how it is in football sometimes.

Getting three points in the first game against QPR would be a boost for us all and we’ll be working as hard as possible to do that.