A SYLV-ER LINING!
Cloud hanging over Sylvan EbanksBlake’s career has lifted at Preston
TAKING a sabbatical is not a traditional career move for a professional footballer, but after six months out of the game Sylvan EbanksBlake says he has rediscovered his mojo at Preston North End.
The 28-year-old hitman found himself without a club when his contract expired at Ipswich in the summer, but believed all the while he still had what it takes to cut the mustard in the Football League.
Ebanks-Blake could not revive the goalscoring form at Portman Road that saw him twice win the Championship’s golden boot in 2007-08 and 2008-09, when his total of 37 league goals helped Mick McCarthy’s Wolves into the Premier League.
But following his release, spells training back at Molineux, as well as with Brentford and Bradford, have given the Manchester United academy graduate a new lease of life.
And having signed on New Year’s Day and banged in his first goal for League One Preston to rescue a point against Yeovil, EbanksBlake admits he is glad he waited for the right offer to come along. “Training with those clubs stood me in good stead for when Preston rang and gave me the opportunity to earn myself a contract,” he said.
“I was doing pre-season-ish kind of stuff, but that is never the same as training with a full squad who are preparing for a full-match season, as it was more gym-based.
“I was waiting for the right team for me personally. Having been out of the game for so long, and also having played for some top clubs and managers throughout my career, it was very important that the environment suited me and I suited the environment.
“You always look at the level you’ve played at before, and I knew if I stayed fit I still had a lot more football to play and more to give to the game.
“It was just about staying patient and I was happy to wait. When the right opportunity came along, I jumped at it.”
With EbanksBlake joining Jermaine Beckford and Kevin Davies ( pictured, left) at the Lilywhites, Preston’s front three now makes for impressive reading. The trio have amassed more than 1,200 league appearances between them and 320 goals, of
which almost 100 were in the Premier League. And Simon Grayson’s January recruit is adamant the competition for the two spots at the head of Preston’s attack will only help the side,as they go in search of promotion to the Championship.
“That competition is what you need as a player,” Ebanks-Blake added. “Top teams have top squads, and competition is always welcome. It’s no different here.
“Scoring again against Yeovil definitely felt good. It’s always good to get on the scoresheet but I was delighted to do it so early.
“I feel good out on the pitch – better than expected after such a long lay-off to be honest. A couple of months ago I was just training by myself and I was worried getting back up to speed was going to be very difficult. But I’ve got to keep on going and the proof will be at the end of the season when I look back and see what I’ve done.
“I’m not looking in the shortterm, I want to make a long-term impact and see what we can achieve collectively as a team this year.
“Promotion is very realistic. There are still 19 games left and 57 points to play for, and it is clear as day that we are in the mix.”
BACK IN THE OLD ROUTINE: Sylvan EbanksBlake celebrates his first goal for Preston and, inset, Jermaine Beckford