Josh Earl admits he still pinches himself sometimes that he puts on a PNE shirt and runs out at Deepdale.
The 20-year-old left back has come through the North End Academy and has been involved as PNE have challenged for promotion for the last two seasons.
“I remember coming on trial when I was nine-years-old, getting my first contract and since then it’s been a massive long journey,” said Josh who still lives in Southport.
“It hasn’t just been a journey for me but for my family as well.
“My little brother, Lewis, is trying to make the same journey as me at PNE. He is a defender as well, he is 17 and did well in the recent FA Youth Cup run.
“It has been tough for the family, shuffling work and taxi-ing us about all the time as we still live an hour away but it means something when you put the shirt on and go on the pitch as you have been here since you were nine-years-old.
“This is a good club for a young player to be at. With the gaffer if you are good enough, you are old enough. The gaffer has faith in his young players, in our current back four the oldest is Darnell [Fisher] and he is only 24.
“You can see young players are brought on, you only have to look at Jordan Storey who came to us in the summer from Exeter and he is a different player now to how he started the season.”
Josh played 20 games last season in his first senior campaign as PNE narrowly missed out on the Play-Offs and he admits this season, while enjoyable, from a personal point of view has been slightly frustrating.
“It’s been good, it has been an enjoyable season. It was tough to take at the start, we had a difficult start and it was hard because we did so well last season.
“We bounced back really well from it and showed everyone what we are capable of and, whatever happens, we had a great run from January to March.
“For me, it has been disappointing at times as I have had a couple of injuries.
“I had played five or six games on the bounce and then I injured my quad at the Birmingham game in December and was out for two months which obviously hindered me.
“It tests you mentally, it makes you mentally stronger.
“Like for Hughesy [Andrew Hughes], now, he has been playing all season and then, for the final push, he gets injured and I have to come in and take his pace. He is gutted.
“I am still learning and it’s tough when you come into a team that’s flying and you haven’t played as many games as the other players.
“Mental strength is a massive part of football. If you are not match fit and on it as the other lads then the fans will get on you, the gaffer will get on you, it’s tough and you have to bounce back.
“The thing about being here is there is always someone to play in your position, you can’t slip up and it keeps everyone on their toes, everyone has got a fighting chance of playing.
“We have two starting XIs and both are really good sides and it’s good to have back up in every position.
“I played around 20 games last season and hopefully, if I get games in before the end of the season, I will be the same this season which will be a great end of the campaign for me.”
You can read plenty more from Josh in Tuesday evening’s packed edition of The One And Only, plus we have interviews with Alan Browne, Lukas Nmecha, Declan Rudd, Sean Gregan, Neill Collins and much, much more.
The 100-page edition of the official matchday programme is still just £3 and is on sale from Tuesday afternoon from the club’s Sir Tom Finney Stand ticket office and from the sellers inside and outside the ground on matchday, so make sure you pick up your copy.