Hard-working Browne not slow in setting goal targets

Hard-working Browne not slow in setting goal targets

The uninvited viewers arrived over the hill wearing school bags and uniforms.

FAI security was quick to intervene before they got any closer to the training pitch on which Mick McCarthy’s squad were being put through their paces.

Maybe if it was the week of a friendly their ingenuity would be rewarded, and they might have been allowed stay to watch. But this is serious business — a Euro 2020 qualifier away to Georgia on Saturday — so the posse of kids was not going to be given the benefit of the doubt.

They got as far as the side field where James McClean, who arrived into camp nursing a stiff back, was jogging away from his teammates alongside physio Tony McCarthy.

McClean gave a thumbs up when asked if he was feeling OK, but any chance the school children had of getting a word from him was quickly scuppered as they were ushered away.

The business end of the week draws ever closer and, as kick-off approaches, the tension rises.

Midfielder Alan Browne knows his role in training is to keep those in possession of a starting jersey honest.

“I’m not one to want the team to lose so that I can get in,” he explained. “I want the boys to do as well as they possibly can in every game they play, and I think they’ve done that so far and deserve their place in the team. It’s up to me to be ready, like with the friendly game against Bulgaria, to take my chance when it comes along.”

Browne certainly did that last month when he opened the scoring against the Bulgarians.

It’s the only goal of his season so far. He’s yet to find the net for Preston in 14 appearances, and the Cork man is his own worst critic.

I think I could be doing better, to be honest,” Browne, who struck 13 times for club and country last season and nine the season before, continued.

“I think that’s where I’ve been catching the eye over the last couple of years. I must keep trying to score and keep trying to set up goals and be involved as much as I can. The gaffer here wants goals from midfield and I was obviously a good option in that regard. I think I need to keep proving that I can be a goal-scoring threat.”

The good moments do not linger for long with Browne.

“I would never dwell on them too much because it can change very quickly. I’ve learned that especially this season. I had one bad game at the start and I haven’t really cemented a starting place since,” he reasons.

“I know when you’re playing well you’re going to enjoy it but you’ve got to move on to the next game as quickly as you can because football is a harsh reality and you have to face it.

“I think in football you have to be harsh on yourself because there will be a line of players ready to come in and take your place. When you’re out of the team you’re hungrier to get into it so when you’re in there you need to work as hard as you possibly can and do everything to stay in there.”

It is that sort of work ethic he hopes will take him to the Premier League, and follow in the footsteps of the likes of Conor Hourihane, John Egan, and Callum Robinson, who joined Sheffield United from Deepdale this summer.

I would like to think that I’m up to their levels. They are fantastic players who deserve to be where they are. I want to get to that level with the club. My goals are to get to the Premier League and hopefully that will be with Preston.

“It’s a big few years for me as you don’t have a long time in football. I need to start really hitting my peak over the next few years and hopefully, I will do that.”

Browne is only 24, so he’s far from over the hill.

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