Young defender Lewis Fensome is looking forward to his return to action after a long spell on the sidelines.
The 17-year-old enjoyed a blistering start to the 2016/17 campaign after scoring in a pre-season friendly against Lancaster City, a game in which he was named in the starting Xl alongside a number of first team players.
His season was brought to a premature end on 1st October 2016 after suffering a broken leg in a game against Wigan Athletic, but after nine months of hard work, the son of former North End player Andy Fensome is ready to make his return.
On his new responsibility as skipper, Fensome said: "I always thought when I was younger that I was a leader on the pitch, and off the pitch I am mates with all of them as well so that helps. I didn't expect it because I didn't really play last year due to my injury.
"When I'm on the pitch I'm loud, I feel I can control the players and I organise so I'm excited.
"At the start of last season I was playing regularly before the injury and they always said that if I come back working hard then I would hopefully carry on where I left off. Being captain doesn't mean that I will automatically be in the team, I need to work just as hard as everyone else, if not more, but it's nice to know that after being out for so long that I'm still in the thoughts and I'm still playing. Next year is going to be just as big for me as any other year.
Having trained with the first team squad at Springfields on a number of occasions, Fensome was sent messages of support from members of Simon Grayson's team the management staff after hearing about his injury, something that meant a lot to the youngster.
"It was nice for them to even bother to contact me, they were saying things like 'keep your head up' and some of the messages came from players who had been in the same position.
"A lot of players have had serious injuries and for people like Tom Clarke to say 'we've all been there, if you need anything' and then when you are at the training ground they all ask how you are it makes you want to keep going and it shows that they are interested and that's a great feeling."
The focus for Fensome now is to get back to the standard he was at back in October and build from there, and the defender is more than happy to put the work in to make that happen.
"After being injured for nine months it's going to be hard to get up to the standard of the rest of the lads straight away, so I will be working hard to do that and hopefully I will get the chance to train with the first team again. If that happens straight away then great and I will take my chance, if it doesn't I will work hard and wait for my chance whenever that may come and make sure I'm ready to take it when it comes along.
"I will be fully fit by the time the season starts, I'm running, turning, twisting and everything is coming together now which is what it's all been about over the last nine months. I feel really good, I feel as good as I did nine months ago now and I will be ready to go once the start of the season comes.
"The injury was unfortunate, what happened, happened, it's part and parcel of playing football. You go for tackles and unfortunately I was on the receiving end of a bad tackle, it was frustrating watching the lads from the sidelines and it's been hard but all I have been focusing on is this season and getting ready for that. I've just been excited for the last nine months about the next time I would play a game.
"The main goal for me this season is to get a pro contract but I want to get back to playing every week I want to be the first name on the teamsheet and hopefully push on in bounce games and get training with the first team. I want to be up there and thought of highly.
Fensome and his U18s teammates will all be competing for a professional contract come the end of the season, and with three of last year's scholars earning a professional deal, it gives hope to the current crop of budding stars that they can achieve the same.
"Three of the lads got contracts this summer and it's really good for them and they deserved it. It's also good for us as second years to know that if we perform and take our chances then we might get to push into the first team squad and see what happens from there.
Callum Roberts, Josh Earl and Melle Meulensteen were the three to be awarded deals, and they all played a pivotal role in the team's historic FA Youth Cup run last season. That is something that has only spurred Fensome on more to succeed this year and he feels the current squad can take it to the next level.
"Watching them has just made me more determined, I want to do better with the lads this year, the lads we have this year are even stronger than the group we had last year and I think we can push on.
"We will be training together every day and going to college together and so I think we can go one better. We want to go further in the cup, I think we can push on in the league and try and finish as high as we can in that."
You can find out more about all of our scholars on the new-look youth team section of PNE.Com by clicking here.