Preston North End No.1 Declan Rudd is the main interview in this weekend’s edition of The One And Only.
The goalkeeper is part of the PNE furniture now, signing permanently in 2017 following two loan spells earlier on in his career under then boss Simon Grayson.
He has been part of a couple of near misses as North End have challenged for the Play-Offs over the last couple of years and, despite being among the early challengers this season, he is hoping few are taking note of Alex Neil’s men.
“I think people may be taking more notice of us but I hope not. We always seem to have been, since I have been here, a team which has slipped under the radar. No one talks about us.
“Even when we were in and around it last year, no one was speaking about us. I still don’t think anyone is taking us seriously now.
“Hopefully we can keep it that way, we want to slip under the radar and go about our business without too much pressure being put on us.
“It goes to show, it’s not always about how big the name of a club is, or how fancy it is. It’s about the players on the pitch and if you go out there and give it your all, which we have here as everyone goes out and gives it everything they have got, that goes a long way and then we also have the quality in the team to win us games.”
While no one is getting too carried away in the Deepdale camp, Declan is one of a few PNE players who have experienced life at the top level, playing in the Premier League for Norwich.
“I had a taste of it, I’ve been there before, and it’s something we all aspire to get back to. It’s not an easy task but it’s a big carrot at the end of the season to work towards and thrive towards and we have given ourselves a good start.
“We are level-headed, we know there is still a lot of football to be played so it’s a bit early to be looking too far ahead.
“It’s hard not to get too excited when you play in the Premier League. We had one of Norwich’s best results, they probably topped it this year by beating Man City, but we beat Manchester United at Old Trafford which was the first time a Norwich side had done that in 25 years.
“I played in that game, we won 2-1 and it was a great feeling. Unfortunately, at the end we didn’t achieve our goal, we didn’t stay up, so that result means pretty much nothing but, when you look back personally, I played in some really big games and learnt so much from that time in the Premier League.
“I played two games in it when I was 20 and that was rabbit-in-headlights scenario. I got back into it around four years ago, 2015/16, I had a longer run in the team and it was something I always want to try and get back to doing.”
Declan says life at PNE has changed since he signed permanently. He put pen to paper under Grayson just before the manager switched to Sunderland that summer and then former Norwich boss Neil took over in July 2017.
He has made the No.1 shirt his own over the years and he feels ‘the gaffer’s’ patient strategy at Deepdale is now paying off.
“The gaffer has changed it, his playing philosophy is completely different to what Simon’s was but he didn’t change it completely straight away because of the type of players he had to bring in, and change around. It’s quite a big jump to go from playing the way we did to the way we play now.
“There’s nothing to say either way is better than the other as both managers have their own styles but what the gaffer has done is taken his time in getting his full philosophy across to us.
“This year is probably the first year where he has set out exactly what he wants, how he wants us to play and he has had a number of transfer windows where he has been able to bring people in and change a few people around and that’s helped in setting up how he wants to go.
“We have a big squad as is well-documented but the squad mentality is good, even the lads who aren’t playing are happy to be here and are still enjoying it.
“At other clubs, lads who aren’t playing can be poisonous to the team who are actually playing but there’s not one of them here and that helps the lads who are out there on a Saturday or the lads who come in if called upon or if there are injuries.
“It’s a really good feeling in the dressing room, in the team and in the training ground. It’s an enjoyable place to be.
“Last year we didn’t start well, we were bottom of the table at one point but we knew we could get ourselves out of the situation.
“However, with having a positive start this season, it’s a different mindset, the dressing room is full of confidence.
“You only have to look at the likes of Tom Barkhuizen, he is full of confidence again. You can see it in training, he is facing players up and taking them on, he has got the belief back in his ability.
“We all knew he had it, he just needed to believe in it again and he does and he is scoring brilliant goals and vital goals in tough games for us.”
There’s plenty more from Dec in Saturday’s programme, plus interviews and features with Jayden Stockley, Ben Pearson, Calum Woods, Chris Lucketti and Neal Trotman.
This is another packed full 84-pages, on sale from Friday afternoon from the Sir Tom Finney Stand ticket office, or from inside and outside the stadium on matchday, still for just £3 per copy.