Preston North End manager Simon Grayson has had a habit of signing young, hungry players...
The 23-year-old forward started his career down on the Fylde coast before a move to the north of the county saw him start to show his real potential. Seventeen goals between the start of last season and the end of October this year had the Lilywhites keeping a close eye on the pacy player and he agreed a move in mid-November to head to Deepdale.
It then required six weeks of patience before he could be eligible to pull on a PNE shirt for the first time, but he reflects on this period as a useful one, especially now as he is starting to make an impact on the first team.
“I’ve played or been involved in the last four games,” he told The One And Only this week. “It did come as a little bit of a surprise because I was out of the squad for a few weeks, but it shows that the manager has got faith in all of his players. He’s put me in and I feel like I haven’t let him down, and from then he’s kept putting me on and all I can do is keep doing what I’m doing and hopefully we can keep winning.
“There were pros and cons [of moving six weeks before he could pull on the lilywhite]. I knew that I couldn’t play for two months which was really frustrating; you know having to do all the extra running and everything else, that wasn’t good for my legs or my lungs, but now I feel like I’m getting the benefits of that because my fitness levels are up.
“The pros are settling and getting to know everyone and getting a feel of the place and stepping up to the level that I’m playing at now was really important.”
Since his departure from the Globe Arena the Morecambe story has been one that has gained plenty of media coverage and he has been delighted at the character and spirit shown by his former team-mates – something in a different situation, he feels is echoed in PR1.
“If you look at it from the outside, it seems as though everything that has gone on off the field has brought the football side all together,” he continued. “Everyone saw the moment where the manager got his fine paid by the fans and it just seems to have lifted everyone at the club. All the players, the staff and the fans, they’re getting more fans now than they did at the start of the season which is what they needed for a club like that to survive.
“It’s great and I think they’ve lost one in 2017, they’re flying up the table. I’ve got friends there who I want to see do well, so from my point of view it is nice that they’re doing well, it’s nice that the manager’s doing well.
“It’s weird, with fans – and I’m a fan myself – when a team starts doing well you automatically think ‘what if’. And Morecambe’s the same every year, they’re flying at the start of the season and expectations go up and then it goes up and down and wobbles. The reality is that everyone just wants to stay in the division; that is always the most important thing and then if anything else can happen after that, then so be it.
“Here we finished 11th last year, if we can better that this year then you’re looking again next year thinking ‘if we can better that, where are we going to be?’. The mentality is the same, which is probably why it’s been easy for me to make the transition over - I’m really enjoying it and I just want to keep playing and doing well.
“There was something on Sky Sports the other day, they were showing the favourites for promotion and we were in the top ten, yet they were showing the teams below us on the list because that’s the way people see us. But we’re not sat in the dressing room thinking we have to make the Play-Offs or we have to do this, and I think that’s the best way to go, because no-one expects us to be there, it takes the pressure off us.
“You look at some of the big teams that are spending an absolute fortune, their fans are expecting them to go up, whereas our fans they look at us, we’re now ninth in the league, they probably think it’s a good season already. With no pressure it means you can go out and play with freedom, the manager lets you go and play with freedom and like who knows what’s going to happen?
“We’re only a few points off the Play-Offs, so we’ll just wait and see. We’ve got a few tough games coming up against the teams around us, but you never know might happen.
“I heard the other day that we’d lost just five since November, so I think on the form table we must be massively high up there. It’s 12 games and if you pick up eight wins – it’s not impossible. You look at Blackpool a few years ago - Tommo likes to remind people of that! It is one of those situations where you get on a run and see what happens – I think Barnsley did it in League One last year.
“Winning momentum is key and you can see that with us, we’re not giving up in any game at the moment, we’re grinding teams down because even when we’re not playing very well, we just seem to have that little bit of luck at the moment which counts as well.
“Hopefully it can continue and we might be able to do something at the end of it.
“I think that comes down to the tightness in the dressing room that everyone wants to fight for each other. You look at the likes of Greg going to right back in the last home game, I spoke to him before the game and he said he’s never played right back in his life. That’s the mentality we’ve got, the fact we can switch between different formations with the personnel that we’ve got.
“We’ve lost a couple of big players recently through injury and we still win the games. It just shows that everyone is fighting for each other and I think the fans like to see that as well, they like to see the never say die attitude and that we keep fighting and we keep fighting.
“At the moment we’ve managed to get the goals we need to win games, and like I keep saying, we won’t put pressure on ourselves to make the Play-Offs, we just want to see where we can go and finish as high as we can.”
There’s loads more from the man who has scored twice in as many starts for the club, plus interviews and features with, amongst others, Daryl Horgan, Chris Maxwell and Ben Pearson.
There’s also all our regular features and plenty on our opponents and the programme will be on sale from Friday afternoon from the Sir Tom Finney Stand ticket office or from sellers inside and outside the ground on matchday.