Will Hayhurst hopes his loan spell at York City will serve him well next season as he looks to push for a place in Preston North End’s starting line-up.
The 20-year-old joined Nigel Worthington’s side in January on an initial month-long deal, which was later extended until the end of the season.
The winger now returns to Deepdale with more valuable first team experience under his belt having made 20 appearances for the Minstermen in his five months at Bootham Crescent.
And Hayhurst believes the time he spent with the League Two club will prove beneficial on a personal level as well as for North End.
“I think some people can look at last season and think it was a bit of a disappointment at Preston and I can understand where they’re coming from there,” he told PNE.Com in an exclusive interview.
“But it’s how football happens, sometimes you can’t get in the team and you have to go away and I just felt it was the right time for me to get some games.
“It was for myself but also for Preston as well, I just thought that if I did go away and got some games it would help me in my career for Preston as well.
“I really enjoyed it and playing every week was great and hopefully now I can kick on next season.”
While at York, Hayhurst struck up a productive partnership with fellow North End loanee Ben Davies, who had joined the Minstermen at the beginning of the 2013/14 season.
The duo had previously played together for Preston at Academy level and Hayhurst believes having a familiar face around helped him settle in Yorkshire.
He added: “Sometimes it is hard to settle at clubs for players and with Ben being there it was quite easy for me to settle straight away.
“That was a massive help, I think he helped me a lot going through with York so I really enjoyed it and also linking up with him was great, getting a better understanding.
“I played with him in the youth team and we did very well together there so I really enjoyed it and hopefully we can both come back to Preston stronger players.”
But Hayhurst is well aware of how difficult it will be for the pair to continue their understanding next season because of the amount of quality players North End currently possess.
“I think we would both love that [to continue the partnership] but we’ve got some great players at Preston in our positions and it will be a battle,” he said.
“But you never know what can happen and if we both just believe in ourselves then hopefully we can push the first team players at Preston now and hopefully force our way in as well.”
Like North End, York lost in the penultimate stage of the Play-Offs. The Minstermen were beaten 1-0 by Fleetwood Town over two legs and Hayhurst admits the defeat was difficult to take after such a positive campaign.
“It was hard to take after doing what we did in getting into the Play-Offs,” he said.
“I thought the lads were excellent and they gave everything and then to go out 1-0 after both ties, it was devastating really.
“But these things happen in football, it was just gutting that Preston and York went out the day after so it was a big disappointment really.”
Hayhurst has recently returned from international duty with the Republic of Ireland’s U21s having played 40 minutes of their 1-1 draw with Qatar in Germany last weekend.
He said: “It was a good experience, it’s a lot different playing internationally at any age.
“Every team is very technical and they keep the ball well so it’s tough but it was a new group of lads, I think 15 players made their U21 debuts.
“So it was a new squad and I thought we dealt with it quite well.”