"Football's a mad game": Josh Ginnelly reflects on whirlwind 12 months after signing for Preston North End
It has been a whirlwind 12 months for Preston North End new boy Josh Ginnelly.
Last January, the winger was coming towards the end of the best part of a year on loan at Lincoln from Burnley.
Having picked up one National League promotion with the Imps, a second would follow after he joined Tranmere in January 2018.
Impressing while on Merseyside as Micky Mellon’s men returned the Football League was not enough to extend his Clarets’ stay, Ginnelly released last summer after three years on the books at Turf Moor.
That is an uncertain time for any footballer but Ginnelly was then offered the chance to rebuild in League One at Walsall and just 25 games and four goals later, he finds himself in the Championship with PNE.
“It’s been crazy but football’s a mad game,” said the 21-year-old.
“One minute you can be out of the game and the next you can be playing at a great level at a great club.
“It just shows you’ve got to keep believing.
“Don’t stop, don’t quit and keep working hard and your luck might change like mine has.”
The move to North End came somewhat out of the blue for Ginnelly and was one that was simply too good to turn down.
“Honestly, I didn’t sleep for about four days when I first heard about it,” the wide player admitted.
“I was calling my agent at two and three in the morning telling him I couldn’t sleep!
“Preston’s a huge club and when are you going to get the privilege of signing for them?
“It’s just crazy but now I’m here and I can’t wait to start.
“I watched the game against Aston Villa and the boys did really well that day. It was a great atmosphere and I started to get nervous when I heard the crowd roar and stuff like that, knowing eventually I’ll be out there.”
The Coventry-born player only joined Burnley at 18, having come through the ranks at Aston Villa before a spell at Shrewsbury.
It means there were some welcoming faces on his arrival at Deepdale.
“I know Callum Robinson, Daniel Johnson and Graham Burke,” Ginnelly said.
“They were older than me at Villa but Callum used to stay in the same hotel as me when we were young boys.
“I came through the ranks at Villa and left when I was 16 but Callum stayed and got a couple of games.
“When I saw first saw him here I asked him about his dad and things like that. It was good to see a familiar face but all the boys have been fantastic and I feel like I’ve fitted straight in.
“There are a few Joshes about the place with Josh Earl and Josh Harrop
“I keep turning around and seeing if people are talking to me.!”
As well being no stranger to some of the players, Ginnelly is also no stranger to the area, having been in Lancashire with Burnley.
By his own admission it is a move that did not work out as planned.
The winger was picked up by the Clarets after breaking into the Shrewsbury first team as a 17-year-old, turning down a professional deal at the New Meadow to move north.
He left last July, however, having not made a first-team appearance.
“One thing about being up here is that it’s freezing!” Ginnelly said.
“Burnley was good, the facilities are great.
“It just didn’t really work out for me.
“I only played with the first team in pre-season and did okay but I didn’t really get a chance there.
“I’m here now and this is all I can focus on as you can only look forward.”
His time as a Burnley player was largely spent out on loan.
It included two promotions from the National League to the Football League, first with Lincoln and then Tranmere.
The second came in a remarkable play-off final in May, the 2-1 win over Boreham Wood at Wembley one that Ginnelly will not forget in a hurry.
“Having two promotions at 21 isn’t bad at all,” he said.
“The Tranmere one was eventful to say the least, a few things went on. I was hit by a bottle thrown from the crowd when we scored and we got a man sent off after about 50 seconds.
“I then got subbed after half-an-hour and you’d have to ask the manager about that.
“They were overloading our side so we put a more defensive winger on.
“It was fantastic day though.”
Next up was a return to Walsall, Ginnelly signing a one-year contract at his former loan club in the summer.
He is full of praise for manager Dean Keates, holding him as responsible for his success as Mellon, the man who gave him his Football League debut at Shrewsbury and them took him to Tranmere earlier in the year.
“My plan at Walsall had been just to get myself going again after coming from Burnley where I expected to get a bit closer,” Ginnelly said.
“The manager at Walsall told me to use it as a stepping stone and that’s what I’ve done.
“Credit to him though, he put all his belief in me and I can’t thank him enough.
“Along with Micky Mellon, who is like my football dad, he’s the only manager in football who’s properly backed me.
“I owe them two a massive thank you.”
Ginnelly arrives at Deepdale having signed a two-and-a-half-year deal.
His new manager Alex Neil has made immediate comparisons to Callum Robinson, hoping that the new signing can develop in the same way as his former Villa academy team-mate has over the last couple of seasons.
Ginnelly himself is well aware of the hard work that lies ahead and how he needs to improve in the weeks and months to come.
“I think my performances have managed to get me some interest,” said PNE’s first signing of the January transfer window, who is cup-tied for the game against Doncaster Rovers on Sunday.
“Goals are something that I really want to add to my game – they’re massive for me.
“The gaffer’s said that to me as well, he wants the wingers to chip in with goals and assists.”