Preston’s Paul Huntington will face former club Leeds this weekend.

Paul Huntington after Leeds United’s 2008 League One play-off final defeat to Doncaster Rovers

Leeds United take on Preston North End at Elland Road this weekend in a key clash, which will see a number of North End men returning to their former club.

With the Whites needing a result after losing to Reading and Brentford, Garry Monk will be looking to complete a league double over in Preston in Simon Grayson’s latest return to Elland Road.

The former Leeds boss will bring staff members Glynn Snodin and Steve Thompson back to the club as well this weekend, whilst striker Jermaine Beckford should also be in the Preston squad, years after becoming a Leeds hero.

However, the only ex-Leeds player set to start for Preston is defender Paul Huntington, whose Leeds career was forgettable, but he has become North End’s unsung hero.

The giant centre back, 29, started his career with Newcastle before moving on to Leeds, where he made just 32 appearances, and featured in the 2008 League One play-off final against Doncaster, which Leeds lost.

Ironically, it was now-Preston boss Grayson who allowed Huntington to leave during his time at Leeds, releasing him from his contract in 2010 in order to let him join Yeovil Town – and after 85 appearances for the Glovers, he earned a 2012 move to Preston.

Huntington has had his fair share of ups and downs at Deepdale; the centre back had been in and out of the side under Grayson after being signed by Graham Westley, and looked set to leave the club in 2014 before staying to fight for his place; one of his best decisions in his career, having played a key role in Preston’s promotion to the Championship, scoring the second goal in the 4-0 play-off final win over Swindon Town in 2015.

Paul Huntington of Preston North End celebrates scoring against Brighton

Now one of the keys to the Preston defence, Huntington has been a solid defender and a dependable performer for North End, racking up almost 200 appearances for the club whilst quietly becoming a favourite with sections of the Preston fanbase.

He isn’t flashy, but Huntington is strong, good in the air and reads the game well, proving to be the ideal ‘stopper’ centre back for Preston, and even when left out of the team in stretches by Grayson, he never complained, merely got on with his job and fought for his place.

The likes of Tom Clarke, Greg Cunningham, Aiden McGeady, Ben Pearson and, most recently, Tom Barkhuizen attract most of the praise at Preston, Huntington has been their unsung hero for some time now – and he will be looking to help them beat his former club Leeds this weekend after a fairly disappointing spell at Elland Road earlier in his career.

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