Midfielder Alan Browne was pleased to make his 250th appearance for the club on the final day of the season and hopes there’s plenty more to come.
It’s been quite the journey for Browney since his move from Cork City as a teenager in 2014, having established himself as an important player in the squad over the course of his six years in PR1.
Speaking to PNE.Com, Alan said: “I didn’t realise I was actually approaching it. When you think about it, it’s a lot of games and it’s a good milestone for me and to get it on the last day of the season is obviously pleasing.
“But it’s off the back of what ended up being a disappointing season overall. I was probably hoping for three more appearances this year but it wasn’t to be but it’s a good milestone and hopefully there’s many more to come.”
Those extra three appearances alluded to are of course the Championship Play-Off games which PNE just missed out on despite being in the top six for most of the campaign.
The Lilywhites ended up ninth in the table – a fourth top half finish since returning to the division five years ago – but Browney was disappointed in the way he and his teammates ended the season.
He said: “I think where you finish you deserve to be. People might say if the whole break hadn’t happened then things might have been different and they probably would have to be fair.
“It gives other teams and us a chance to rest as well and I thought we’d then go and kick on but we didn’t. Obviously it wouldn’t have been the same because it’s a completely different period, people come back from injuries, people are rested so you’re playing against different players.
“It has affected it but ultimately where we ended up we deserved to be. We weren’t good enough leading up to the break and we weren’t good enough after the break so I’d definitely say you get what you deserve.
“It’s not because of a lack of effort: we gave it everything. We knew how much it meant to each and every one of us, to the fans and to the club as a whole and we had probably a lot more expectation, but it wasn’t to be and obviously we’re really disappointed and really frustrated given the position we were in.
“We gave ourselves a fantastic chance to go and get into the Play-Offs so to let it fizzle out is really frustrating.
“I think fans are obviously frustrated but us as players go home and you’re kicking yourself for a whole week really and just waiting for the next game and it happens again and the luck just was never with us really. It was just really disappointing to end the way that we did and we got what we deserved.”
PNE made a strong start to the season, going to the summit of the Championship table after a 1-0 victory away at Charlton Athletic at the beginning of November and that’s quite the opposite of the season prior.
The 2018/19 campaign saw Alex Neil’s side struggle towards the wrong end of the division before improving as the games went by and Browney recognises that PNE need to find a way to be consistent throughout.
He said: “It’s disappointing but we’ve got to get over it now and look ahead to next year. There’s obviously some good teams that went down as well as came up and I’m sure they’ll find out just how difficult a league it is quickly and we’ve got to make sure we start it right.
“Every other year it’s kind of a case of starting poorly and getting a run together towards the end and it not quite being enough, but this year we were in a fantastic position and threw it away so I think we’ve got to try and maintain that throughout the year.
“It’s obviously difficult. There’s not many teams that can maintain really high levels of performances and keep getting results after results but we’ve just got to pick up as many points as we can to get off to a good start and go from there.
“It’s about the start, middle, and end and we’ve got to treat each period as important as the others. You have to be consistent in the league.
“We’ve experienced starting well and finishing poorly, starting poorly and finishing well and every time we’ve come up short so it’s about getting the right balance and right level of consistency and that will take us to the next level.”
He also highlighted the competitiveness of the division which he felt was epitomised on the final day of the regular season when a lot of sides still had plenty to play for.
“I think looking too far into the future is probably one thing that we did. You look at fixtures and you look at other people’s fixtures and their run in.
“You’re thinking ‘we’ll beat these, a point here would be good’ but you can’t look that far ahead especially in this league. I think the last day of the season sums the Championship up.
“The way that Swansea got into the Play-Offs, Forest dropped out, the teams battling in the relegation zone. It just summed everything up the way results went because you can never bank on getting three points in any game or a point and I know from the outside looking in you think this team should beat that team and maybe they should but the league that we’re in and the competitiveness of it just makes for a great league and you find that out every year just how difficult it is.
“It’s another learning curve but we’ve really got to take it going into next year now. It’s not really a year to go in and be taking more learning curves from it, it’s a year that we need to take it by the scruff of the neck and try to go be successful.”
On Browney’s way towards 250 appearances for the club, he picked up the Player of the Year award in 2018 and PNE’s No.8 was full of praise for this year’s winner Daniel Johnson.
“He was the clear winner. You didn’t really have to announce it, you could have just given him the award and everyone would’ve known.
“He was just the standout player and was kind of the go-to man throughout the season. We missed him when he picked up an injury and he’s a big character in the dressing room and on the pitch.
“He’s a great presence and it was a thoroughly deserved award. I’m delighted for him because like all of us he came under criticism before the season and he could have left but he stayed, got his rewards and I’m delighted for him.”