Plenty of youngsters grow up with ideas of playing in the Emirates FA Cup...
The Lilywhites’ No.11 maybe 24, but his FA Cup career has not yet got off the ground. He started for loan club Oldham Athletic back in a second round tie in 2014 against Doncaster Rovers at Boundary Park. The Latics lost the game 1-0 and ultimately it cost the midfielder the chance to line up against the likes of Rooney, De Gea, Falcao, Di Maria, Blind et al when his new club faced Louis Van Gaal’s Manchester United at Deepdale the following February.
So when the draw was made last month that saw North End drawn against his boyhood club Arsenal, he was desperate to make sure he was playing well enough to be considered for selection this evening.
“As any player is going to be, I was devastated that I couldn’t play in the [Manchester United] game and it was hard watching the game with the atmosphere and seeing the boys getting ready and focused before the game,” he told the matchday programme ahead of the Gunners’ visit to PR1.
“It was a brilliant night and I am just delighted that I am able to play in this massive game that is coming up and if I keep myself fit and playing as well as I am, then I am sure then I will be picked – but who knows? We will have to wait and see.
“The lads did terrifically against Manchester United the other year – they did really well and I am sure they will want that feeling again and hopefully we can get the win this time, because it will be an even better feeling, but credit to those who played that day, because they did well against the odds. Manchester United came out in the second half did what they do, because they are a top football club, but let’s wait and see what happens tonight.
“I think I’ve actually only played one FA Cup game! I have hardly ever played in the competition. I didn’t play at Peterborough United last year and the year before I played when I was on loan at Oldham Athletic and that was the reason I didn’t get to play against Manchester United, so I have not actually played that many minutes in the competition, but I am definitely looking forward to this one, especially against Arsenal.
“It is a club I supported growing up, so I am looking forward it and looking forward to playing against some top players.
“They might arrive and think that it will be an easy day at the office, where they will walk all over us, but we will be more than ready for them. We will be fired up, but before that we had to concentrate on the next couple of games in the league and pick up as many points as possible.
“We had the right preparation with three massive home games and big crowds. We have the home advantage, playing in our back yard and I am sure the crowd will get behind us, as they always do and we will go out and try our best as we always do, to get the right result. We are going to be fully prepared for the game and we will be fired up and ready to go.
“For me personally I think that you can only play what is on the field. Of course they are top players; some of the best players in the world, but when it comes down to it, it is just 11 against 11 and it comes down to that on the day.
“People can have bad games and people can have good games and hopefully we are on the good side of things and we are the ones having the good game and they aren’t having such a good day and we can come out with the win, which would be fantastic.
“But they are top players and I am sure they will be at it as well, however, we will be ready to go.”
There is plenty more from DJ, plus many, many extra features in Saturday evening’s 100 page edition of The One And Only.
We have a special section looking back 18 years to the last time the two sided met at Deepdale in the FA Cup, with interviews including David Moyes, Sean Gregan, Lee Cartwright, Ryan Kidd, Jon Macken, Colin Murdock, Mark Rankine, Michael Jackson and of course goalscorer Kurt Nogan.
We also have further interviews with former PNE and Arsenal man Chuks Aneke, new signings Daryl Horgan and Andy Boyle, plus the views of Chris Maxwell, manager Simon Grayson and plenty more packed in to the £3 edition on sale from matchday from the club’s Sir Tom Finney Stand ticket office and from the sellers inside and outside the ground.