Preston North End midfielder Ben Pearson admits it has been a long road to get back to playing after the coronavirus pandemic, but he has come to realise how much he has missed playing.
Speaking to iFollow PNE in an extended interview to look ahead to the resumption of the Championship, the Lilywhites’ No.4 says he has been glad of some normality with the return to training.
“It has been a long road and the first six or seven weeks we didn’t have a date and were training on our own and getting that has pushed everyone a long a bit,” said the former Manchester United man.
“Getting back to training was a big thing where we could all talk a bit and get back to some semblance of normality. The past week has been good, we have managed to get some games in, training has been more intense, with the contact training and it has been almost normal.
“Getting that date has made it a lot easier. It was what everyone was hoping for – something to look forward to. It was hard for the government and everyone to give a date when the numbers were so high, but numbers have now dropped and we have the date.
“Everything is done properly in football – it is possibly the safest environment you can be in; with the testing and the precautions everyone is taking.
“It is good to be back training as normal with the lads, getting back to that routine that everyone is used to.
“You realise how much you miss it when it is not there. It is nice being at home and having that breather, but having that purpose in life and having that routine to go to every day, socially is good for the mental side and that was the biggest hurdle I found.”
The 25-year-old and his team-mates head to face Nathan Jones’ Luton Town in their first game back in the 2019/20 Championship season and he admits that playing behind closed doors will take some getting used to.
“Every player is different,” he continued. “It will probably be harder for me than some players. I need that adrenaline and buzz that the fans in the stadium give you.
“It won’t necessarily affect my game, but it certainly enhances my game when it is there.
“Some players are the opposite, some struggle under pressure and don’t deal with the fans as well and that will probably benefit for them.
“It will be team that reacts the quickest to that environment will do the best. We need to start strong and start fast and get those points early to build that momentum.
“Getting that first win at Luton would be big. It would give us confidence and give us that winning feeling again. Getting points on the board as quick as possible and trying to open up a gap and give us some breathing space will give us a chance to relax.
“It is nine cup finals and getting a couple of wins to get a breathing space will allow us to relax and hopefully that will happen.”
And he will be watching the return of the Premier League on Wednesday night to get a flavour of what the playing environment will be like when the side arrive in Bedfordshire come Saturday afternoon.
“I’ve been waiting for the Prem games for a while now. A bit of football on TV is good. I have been watching a bit of the Bundesliga and I don’t it seems to have affected them much.
“The standard has been good. The quality has been good and I am sure the Prem will be the same.
“I think injuries will be a big factor in the next six weeks. Introducing the five substitutes and the 20 matchday squad members is good for everyone and is a needs must at this stage.
“We do a similar schedule over Christmas, but by then you have already played ten or 15 games, so you are match fit. Now, we are coming off an 11 weeks absence with only three weeks to prepare and on the back of 90 minutes each and then you are thrown into a Christmas period on the back of that.
“That is the biggest issue. Rotating players is going to be key, within the game or at the start. I think you will find strange results, especially later on the season, when people are tired,” he added.
To watch the full extended chat with Ben, just click on the video at the top of the page and remember that all our video interviews are available free of charge, without the need for subscription.