'It's not playing on my mind': Sean Maguire puts injuries to one side as he bids to help Preston up the Championship table
Sean Maguire would be forgiven for playing with a bit of trepidation at the moment.
Twice during his impressive 15 months at Preston North End the striker has been sidelined with a serious hamstring injury.
The latest halted his start to the current season just as all at Deepdale backed him to take the Championship by the scruff of the neck.
Despite those setbacks, now firmly back in the first-team fold, Maguire insists he has put his injury issues firmly out of his head as he looks to kick on and help PNE towards the right end of the Championship table.
“It’s not really in the back of my mind,” said the Republic of Ireland international.
“When I came back first time around last season against Bolton I felt fine and then this time against Wigan it wasn’t in the back of my mind at all.
“If it is, then you’re not going to come back as the same player.
“The more games I play the more comfortable I’ll get and that’s the goal.
“I’ve been injured probably half the time I’ve been here and it’s been frustrating for me.
“I did okay last season scoring a few goals but I want to kick on now and stay fit not just for this season but for the rest of my career.”
While the 24-year-old tries to put his hamstring problems firmly in the past that doesn’t mean his return is not being carefully managed.
He returned off the bench against Wigan in the 4-0 win at the start of the month before getting a taste of international action with the Republic of Ireland.
A first start against Hull in the 1-1 draw at the KCOM Stadium last Saturday then followed ahead of schedule with Tom Barkhuizen sidelined and Callum Robinson only fit enough for the bench.
“I felt good at Hull and the hamstring felt great.” Maguire said.
“It was a bit different because I was playing on the right wing which is different to playing as a striker because you make different runs and you’re obviously blowing a bit more than you would be playing as a number nine.
“At the start of the game my goal was probably to get to 60 minutes which I did.
“It was good get through that and get some more minutes against Brentford.
“It just ticks a few more boxes and it’s just about managing my hamstrings because I don’t want to break down again.
“As much as I want to keep playing 90 minutes in every game the best thing to do is be smart about it.
“Muscle injuries happen because of players being fatigued and in my case that’s happened on a couple of occasions.
“I was flying in pre-season and for it to happen so near to the start of the season this time killed me a bit.
“To be back in the squad and getting a few minutes under my belt is a great feeling though.”
More than anything Maguire is just relieved to be back out on the pitch, the former Cork City man not someone who deals well with looking on from the sidelines. “I’m not a good watcher of the game to be honest,” he said.
“When the boys were in training and I wasn’t, I didn’t like looking out on them, it hurt a lot.
“I’d rather just stay in the gym and get on with things.
“Even going to the games was hard knowing that I could have made even a slight difference when we were going through that rough patch.”
The versatile front man says that one thing that helped get him through it was the support of the Preston fans.
Despite missing more games than anyone would of liked during his year and a bit in Lancashire, some explosive performances and 10 goals last season mean he is a firm fan favourite at Deepdale.
“All the boys will say that we all read social media and stuff like that,” Maguire said.
“It’s great to see fans wishing you all the best and hoping you’re back on the pitch as soon as possible.
“The fans were brilliant last time when it was a dream return and it’s the same again this time.
“When I came on against Wigan the ovation I got gave me a huge lift. It gives you that extra bit of confidence.
“I can’t fault any of the fans, they’ve been magnificent, all the way through these 11 or 12 weeks or so.
“I don’t think they’ve seen the best of me yet because I’ve been in and out with injuries.
“They’ve been very patient with me over the past year or so.”
Maguire’s return has coincided with an upturn in form for PNE who welcome Rotherham to Deepdale on Saturday on the back of four games unbeaten.
Despite the upturn in fortunes the Irishman knows things can change again in a flash.
“I think the boys have turned a corner,” Maguire said.
“The Aston Villa game was the start and we’ve been four unbeaten since then and we’re on the up.
“I’ve been here a year and a bit and I’m still getting to grips with how the Championship works.
“If you win a couple of games you can really climb up the table and that’s what we’re looking to do.
“Equally if you lose a few you’re heading towards the bottom of the table.”
Now 19th having hit rock bottom at one point, the Irishman’s target is to help PNE back to where he feels they belong after coming so close to a play-off berth in his first season at the club after moving back to England.
“Now with the games coming up I’ll be looking to play my part,” said Maguire.
“We’ve got two very important games coming up.
“There’s Rotherham at the weekend and you don’t want to look far ahead but there’s Ipswich as well so it’s two teams that are in and around us in the table.
“We don’t want to be looking around the bottom of the table.
“We have expectations to be up near the top of the table and that’s what we’re expecting to do in the coming months.
“Hopefully now not only the team has turned a corner, but I have as well and have put the injuries behind me.”