Socceroo midfielder Neil Kilkenny has put his nightmare stint at Bristol City behind him and is back enjoying his football again at Preston North End as the Lilywhites push for promotion.
Kilkenny, who joined Preston on loan in November, has opened up about his two and half years at Bristol City and his hopes for earning a spot in Ange Postecoglou’s Socceroos squad for Brazil 2014.
The former Arsenal junior moved to Deepdale initially on a one-month loan that was later extended until the end of the season - and Kilkenny is loving being back under manager Simon Grayson, who he previously worked with at Leeds United.
“It’s been good,” he said. “Obviously going to a winning team and to a team that’s fighting for promotion at the top of the table, it’s been good. I’ve really enjoyed it.
"It really helps when you know the manager and it’s a manager I had a successful time under at Leeds.
“He’s been really, really good to me. I can’t thank him and his assistant enough for that they’ve done for me.”
Kilkenny joined Bristol City in 2011 after three and half years with Leeds United. He made more than 60 appearances for the Robins but managed just 16 games over the course of 2013.
“I knew my time was up at Bristol really,” Kilkenny said. “I knew quite a while ago. What could I do? I had to just carry on trying to put in in the training sessions and keep my fitness up for that chance to move on, and luckily Preston gave me that opportunity.
“It’s been massively disappointing the last two and half years. It wasn’t a great decision for me to sign there, but you have to look to the future, and luckily I’ve moved on now and I can concentrate on football again.”
Kilkenny has been reborn at Preston and has been a regular in the club’s starting XI for the past six matches. However, the midfielder was sent off in the 25th minute along with Bradford debutant Kyle Bennett after an altercation in Preston’s recent 0-0 draw with the Bantams.
“I was happy with my form,” Kilkenny said. “I wouldn’t say I deserved to get sent off but you can’t change these things. It was really ridiculous. With football these days, obviously I was on the floor getting kicked without getting the ball.
"I got up and pushed him away to say leave me alone, stop kicking me, and he’s touched me on my throat and I’ve got a red card for it. I think the referee, because it was at Bradford, maybe thought 'I should even it up here.' What can you do?
"I’ve been happy with the way I’m playing and hopefully the Socceroos manager will be looking at that and hopefully will consider me for the World Cup now.”
After making his debut for the Socceroos back in 2006, and racking up 14 senior caps, the dream of playing in the World Cup remains in Kilkenny’s sights.
“I just have to concentrate on playing football,” he said. “It’s a bit disappointing from the other night getting sent off.
"But I just have to get on with it now and hopefully keep performing when I get my chance back at Preston.”
In the meantime the 28-year old is eyeing off promotion with Preston into the Championship. The Lilywhites are currently in fourth place in League One, 13 points off competition leaders Brentford and nine points behind third-placed Wolves.
“We’ve got a good chance for promotion,” Kilkenny said. “We’ve got a game in hand and if we win that we go nine points off the top team, maybe 11 points off top with about 18 games to go. It’s still wide open.
“In these leagues if you go on a bit of a run with games unbeaten you can climb the table quite quickly so that’s what we’ll be looking to do between now and the end of the season and push on from there.”
Kilkenny is out of contract at the end of this season but is not looking too far ahead at this stage.
“I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it,” the former Birmingham City and Oldham Athletic player said. “Obviously I’m really enjoying my time at Preston, it’s a great club, great tradition.
"It’s got a tradition of playing really good football throughout the years of the club, obviously under Billy Davies and people like that, and this manager’s come in and they’ve had a few disappointing years but this manager’s come in and got that going again.
“I just have to take it step-by-step, day-by-day. At the minute I’m happy and that’s what it’s all about for me because I’ve had a really disappointing two and half years at Bristol, which I didn’t really enjoy.”