Preston North End goalkeeper Connor Ripley has been enjoying his football in pre-season as he looks to regain his confidence wearing the gloves.
Connor joined the Lilywhites in January 2019 but the form of PNE’s No.1 Declan Rudd has kept him out of the line-up for the majority of his stay at Deepdale so far.
An injury to the former Norwich man, though, has opened up the opportunity for Connor and fellow goalkeeper Mathew Hudson to get a few more minutes under their belt.
Speaking to iFollow PNE, Ripley said: “It’s been a bit different. With Dec being out it’s between me and Mat at the moment but I’ve enjoyed it.
“I’ve enjoyed the game-time and trying to get my confidence back and trying to cement myself in the team.
“When you look at the games I played last season against Man City and then I played Norwich, but unfortunately the Norwich game didn’t go very well for me.
“I had to pick myself up and dust myself down and with playing these few games, my confidence is growing. I’m starting to get my distances right, make a couple of saves here and there, catching and kicking. All that is coming together and hopefully coming together at the right time.
“It’s the first time in about 18 months that I’ve played Saturday, Tuesday, so my legs felt it!
“I think Mat’s going to get a chance Friday or Saturday and I’ll play the other one and I think Mat deserves a chance. He’s done very well in the games he’s played and he’s been doing well in training.
“He pushes me, he pushes Dec and we push each other and it’s been going well this pre-season.”
The goalkeepers have returned to pre-season under the tutelage of a new coach following the departure of Jonathan Gould who was replaced by former Rotherham United man Mike Pollitt.
Commenting on Pollitt, Connor said: “He’s thorough and he likes to get his point across and he’s very hard working – a bit similar to Gouldy. He’s going to be a big miss and big shoes to fill but I think Polly’s got the experience and he’s a very capable goalkeeping coach.
“Experience is a big thing in coaching. Jack Cudworth is a very good goalkeeping coach and he’s learning off Polly and Gouldy and I’ve no doubt he’ll be a very good goalkeeping coach.
“Polly’s here because of his experience and what he’s done in the game and his coaching. We’re all welcoming it and we’re happy that he’s here.”
It’s been announced this week that the first team will be moving to a new training ground at Euxton, with the Academy U18 team then moving to the current base at Springfields.
“I think there’s no question that it’s a bit weathered this one, so I think we’re all looking forward to a sparkling new training ground and I guess it shows that the club’s stepping in the right direction.
“We’re all looking forward to it and hopefully we’ll be there as soon as possible and we’ll crack on with the season.
“It’s a big upgrade to this training ground. The under 18s are coming here which is great for them and I think it’s a step towards a Premier League facility which is great because that’s where the club wants to be.”
Heading into the final few games of pre-season, there is only a few matches left before supporters can re-enter stadiums at reduced capacity and, like many others, Connor has found playing behind closed doors a strange experience.
He told us: “It’s been a bit weird actually. It’s kind of like going back into reserves and under 18 games when you get that chance to play at a stadium.
“It’s okay. We’d prefer fans to be there heckling us or cheering us on so it’s one of those ones where we’re professional footballers so we’ve got to be professional about it and just crack on with the games.”
You can watch Connor’s full interview by clicking the video above.