Preston North End’s 2015 player of the year, Paul Huntington, is ready to go again.
After a whirlwind summer that included scoring and winning at Wembley, picking up the Sir Tom Finney player of the year award, getting married and a new contract, he spoke to the redesigned matchday programme to look ahead to the new campaign.
Hunts’ hectic summer began with his goalscoring, medal-earning efforts under the arch at the home of English football and he explans that it was a team effort – one that lead to a great few weeks.
“We were really pleased as a Club, not just as individuals. We were pleased for the fans, the staff and our team-mates. It was a really good year last season and we are just looking to carry that on now.
“We feel that we have put in a lot of hard work and whilst there is more to do, we feel the preparations have gone well and fitness wise we are feeling strong and all building toward this afternoon – we are looking forward to it.
“It was a whirlwind period! Even the honeymoon afterwards – it all went be so quickly.
“It couldn’t have gone any better. I was delighted. Having been here three seasons, to achieve what we set out to do was fantastic and now we want to build on that.
“I was delighted with that week, it was the best week of my life and I am looking to keep improving personally and as a team.”
It all begins again today against one of the division’s favourites, but reputations and names are not something the Lilywhites’ No.23 is too concerned about.
“Every game is going to be a test,” he continued. “Going up a league we are going to be playing against better quality players and for a lot of us we will be learning as we go. There will be different experiences and adapting to different situations, but we are in good hands with the staff, with their experience at this level, and we will be looking to get as many points as we can.
“We are not setting targets; we are taking each game as it comes and we are looking to get off to as good a start as possible.
“There are a lot of teams that have big budgets and with Middlesbrough having gone very close last season they will be wanting to go one better this season. They won’t be the only club with ambition in this league. You come up against big teams who have the ambition of getting into the promised land of the Premier League. A lot of chairman will be looking at the money they can earn if they achieve that and it will be a big test for us.
“That is why you play and that’s why we are here, at a club like Preston North End.
“We want to test ourselves and I am sure we will have a lot tests this season and hopefully we will do as well as last year. We won’t over think things. It is just a game of football. Most of the team is experienced and we will have some tough tests, but we are looking forward to getting underway with the real stuff.”
Success comes from many factors, but one thing that helps is mental strength and the Carlisle-born defender admits that he learnt plenty about himself with respect to that area last season, although not when he was out of the side, as you might expect.
“The team spirit is there and the togetherness [in the squad]. Of course we need to work on a few things; as you would expect with new players coming in. But that will stand us in good stead and it took us a long way last year.
“When you are going through tough times you need to have the mental strength to cope with it and bounce back and that was one the things we did well last season and we will need it again this season.
“I learnt more about my own mental strength when I was in the team that when I want out of it. When I was out the side I just had to keep myself right physically and mentally and keeping your fitness in case you are called upon. But I remember when I was in the side, that whilst we didn’t lose too many games, when we did I felt we could bounce back as individuals and as a team.
“This year people might not know too much about us and know how we will play, as a team and as players and hopefully that work in our favour and we can impose our own game, especially at home, on teams and look to get as many results as we can,” he added.
There is a lot more from the PNE No.23 in Saturday’s £3 edition of The One And Only, plus many new and exciting features, including ‘my sporting hero’, ‘around the [dart] board’ and ‘what’s in a name’.
Check out 84-pages of perfect-bound content, still only £3, on sale from the Club shop at Deepdale, around the ground on matchday and of course online – don’t miss out on our award-winning edition.