Jayden Stockley admitted he wasn’t sure where his career was going when he went on loan to Exeter in 2016 – and that could have been North End’s loss.
The striker was well-travelled on loan from his parent club Bournemouth, having been on eight previous loan spells.
He went to St James Park, met a manager who believed in him in, Paul Tisdale, and has never looked back, making the move to the Championship with PNE in January.
“I was a veteran of loan clubs,” said the 25-year-old. “I had always been one who jumped to go out on loan and play against older guys, get bashed around, rather than play U23 football.
“I think that stood me in good stead. The only thing is you never know why clubs are taking you – it is to play regularly or as back-up? I have done well at loan clubs but not been consistent enough and so I didn’t really know what my future held as I couldn’t keep doing it.
“Exeter was really the final roll of the dice for me. Paul Tisdale was honest with me, he had total faith in me, we clicked and it worked out for me. It was a pivotal moment in my career. I had no back-up plan and I don’t know what would have happened if it hadn’t worked out.”
After a successful spell on the south west coast, Alex Neil came in for him – and he is relishing Championship football, scoring in his opening game against QPR and playing a part in every game since he has come to Deepdale.
“I love it here, it’s a great experience. It’s been a pretty successful period since I came here and the lads have been brilliant. There is rubbish banter flying around, but they are a good bunch!
“You are slightly anxious when you move to a new club and you do worry about bad eggs, but there are absolutely none here.
“It was a great feeling to score a PNE goal on my debut at QPR. There were a lot of away fans, it was an old stadium and it felt like proper Championship football.
“My whole family were there so it’s really nice. When you cost money, you want to prove your worth and show what you are about, there is plenty of room for improvement, but it’s nice to get off the mark.
“I feel it’s been a good start here for me, I am happy, it’s given me an eye into what the Championship is all about and the gaffer and the staff have been brilliant with me. They want to improve me as a player and that’s one of the reasons why I came here.
“There is obviously a big step up from League Two to the Championship. The pace is quicker, the decision-making is better and you have to have a picture in your head of what you are going to do before the ball has been played.
“But in some ways it’s similar, I am there to bash up centre halves and they are slightly quicker and stronger in the Championships, but there were big units in League Two!”
There is loads more from Jayden in Saturday’s edition of The One And Only, plus interviews with Ben Davies, Jordan Storey, Josh Ginnelly, Rob Edwards, Matthew Hill and Colin Greenall.
The 100-page edition of the official matchday programme is still just £3 and is on sale from Wednesday 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.