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First Team News

Gaffer Relishing Opening Day Derby

23 June 2022

Manager Ryan Lowe admits he’s “really relishing” a local derby against Wigan Athletic to kick off the new Championship campaign.

Preston North End found out their league schedule for the upcoming season on Thursday morning, discovering that their first touch of a ball would come at the DW Stadium against newly-promoted Wigan.

After that comes a home tie against Hull City – who were promoted in the 2020/21 campaign – and next at Deepdale then is Rotherham United, who came up alongside Leam Richardson’s Latics.

Ryan told iFollow PNE: “With the local derby, it’s obviously nice to get an early one in for the fans. For both sets, Wigan’s as well as Preston North End fans, I’m sure they’ll be pleased with that.

“It’s local, not too far. It’s interesting that we’ve got a couple of teams who have been promoted from League One in the first couple of weeks which is obviously going to be tough.

“People will think they’re winnable, of course every game’s winnable, but ultimately they’re two good teams who were fantastic in League One last season and want to try and do the same again in the Championship.

“So it’s a tough encounter in certain ways, but it’s one we’re really relishing.”

There’s plenty more to come on the derby front too, with Blackburn Rovers, Blackpool and Burnley also in the division.

It will be a season different to those which have come before it, given that there is a four-week break for the World Cup in November and December, meaning there’s plenty of midweek fixtures to play throughout the campaign.

Nevertheless, it’s a season which the manager is keen to get started.

“Ultimately it’s one I’m certainly looking forward to as my first full season as Preston North End manager,” he said.

“It’s one that the players here now, and the new players that will potentially come through, will all be looking forward to as well.

“The staff have been in today and we’ve had some discussions, and we’re all champing at the bit to get back and I’m sure the players will be.”

Most of the squad will be in over the next couple of days for pre-season testing, before training gets underway on Monday 27th June.

It’s certainly no secret in the footballing world that the return to pre-season involves heavy work, and there’s a difficult few sessions coming up for the playing squad.

Ryan laughed: “It's going to be tough, let me tell you! But there’s a lot of stuff with a football as well, it’s all designed to make sure that it’s tough but it’s enjoyable as well, and you come off the training pitch knowing that you’ve worked hard.

“Ultimately this Championship, as everyone knows, is grueling so you’ve got to make sure that you’re fit and ready, and that’s certainly what John [Lucas, Head of Physical Performance] will be doing.

“He’ll be putting them through their paces, getting them as fit and as robust as we possibly can.”

Monday will be goalkeeper Freddie Woodman’s first real opportunity to meet his new teammates, after joining the club on a three-year deal on Tuesday.

Disclosing that North End beat Premier League clubs to his signature, Ryan was “over the moon” to get the man who he feels could be one of the best goalkeepers in the division next season.

There still remains plenty of time for further additions, too, but that has required a little bit of patience.

Ryan added: "We’re hoping to get another one or two through the door; we’ve been in long conversations the past four or five weeks as everyone knows.

“It’s been tough, we’ve missed one or two, but we’re still on with one or two.

“What I will say is we won’t just sign anyone for the sake of it. They’ve got to fit the criteria, they’ve got to fit the bill, they’ve got to fit the wage structure.

“We’re not blessed with billions of pounds. There’s a lot of teams who will have bigger budgets than us, but we’ll have to be smart in our recruitment and smart with our budget, and that’s what we’ll continue to do.

“Ultimately patience is key and hopefully we can get one or two through the door in the next couple of weeks, and if we do that then it’ll lead us on to where we’re trying to get to before the season starts, but there will definitely be new additions coming through the door very soon.”

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