This weekend’s matchday programme sees Josh Earl as the cover star, and he is openly honest about his football career so far and admits he is desperate to make a bigger impression at PNE.
The defender says, since breaking into the North End first team as a teenager and hitting an early high, his career has been stop-start ever since, especially due to three injuries which have forced lengthy lay-offs.
Alex Neil and his coaching staff have the belief in the 22-year-old, who has been at Deepdale since the age of nine, after offering him a new three-year deal in October and he enjoyed his first Championship games in 18 months in December.
However, Josh admits, while he did well in some of these games, he needs to have more belief in his own ability and he is determined to get to where he wants to be – becoming a regular in the North End defence.
“I got my new contract when I was 21, just a few weeks before my 22nd birthday, and it was a massive relief.
“I still had until the end of this season to run on my current deal and so I still had the season to prove myself, but to be offered a new deal, especially with everything going on around Covid-19, it was a relief for me as it showed that the management believed in me and believe they can make a player out of me.
“I know I am not the complete player; I am not where I want to be at the moment, but I am determined to get there. I think the biggest thing is having the belief in myself and that’s something I am working on.
“Mentally, it was a massive boost for me to get a contract and I think it helped me play well when I came into the side in December and had a run of a few games. It felt good to be back out on the pitch in a PNE shirt.
“Then, however, I think I suffered a little bit as I played a number of games in quick succession and I hadn’t played since March and it took its toll at Coventry where I wasn’t happy with my performance and Wycombe in the FA Cup was a stinker.
“I made mistakes for two goals, I didn’t stop a cross for one and I got too tight to the lad for the second and they got a penalty.
“Nobody felt worse than me. I beat myself up massively after games like that. I know they were silly mistakes and I probably dwell on them too much, I don’t let it go.
“I have watched them back which isn’t a bad thing and I understand what I did and I have to learn from it but I am 22 now and I want to get back to how I played when I was 18, when I first broke into the first team in 2017/18 season - I didn’t make mistakes then, my performances were much better and I need to get back to that.”
There’s loads more from Josh in Sunday’s edition of the matchday programme, plus chats with Alan Browne, Ethan Walker, David Healy and Claude Davis, plus all the usual content, on sale now.
iFollow PNE cannot broadcast the live video of the game this weekend – except for season ticket holders – due to the Sky Sports coverage, but you can still listen to radio commentary, available for £5, with Jonathan Breeze and Paul McKenna on air from noon on Sunday. Click here now to sign up for an audio match pass.