WITH snow on the hills around Accrington in early April, few could have blamed Padraig Amond if he had started to pine for a return to Portugal last week.
But nothing could be further from the truth for the Irishman on a season-long loan at Stanley from Pacos de Ferreira, a Portuguese top flight club based on the outskirts of the city of Porto.
Amond relished the opportunity to take to the pitch at the likes of Benfica, FC Porto and Sporting Lisbon last season, as he plied his trade on the Iberian peninsula.
But if he does not return there this summer there will be little disappointment.
The 23-year-old would happily sacrifice the sun and the state of the art stadia, simply for a club where he feels at home again. That is how he feels at Stanley, back working with Paul Cook once more.
“This year has been really fantastic,” said the forward, who earned what seemed to be a dream move to Portugal on the back of his goalscoring form for Cook’s Sligo Rovers side in Ireland.
“I’m not saying I fell out of love with football, but it’s just made me really enjoy football and enjoy my life around football again.
“I’ve really enjoyed working under the manager again, and it’s great to be back playing football regularly and living in a place and being able to speak the language.
“I did enjoy it in Portugal, playing against some massive teams. The opportunity was unbelievable and it’s one that I will never regret.
“I played in front of 65,000 in the Estadio da Luz (against Benfica), I played in a cup final and I played against Porto in a 3-3 draw. We were the only team to take a point off them that season in their stadium.
“But while that was fantastic you have to be able to have a life outside of football as well and that was the hardest thing for me.
“When I signed someone had said to me that in the north of Portugal their English isn’t great.
“If it was a team down in the south, it probably would have been perfect because you have a lot of English and Irish tourists and a lot of retired people, so you would have had a lot of English speakers.
“When I landed there first it was 40 degrees too, which was really bad for me. It’s great when you’re going on a holiday but when you’re trying to train twice a day, it is quite hard.
“But I have actually gone to a few Brazilian restaurants over here because I’ve missed the food!”
Amond and Cook have already spoken about the Irishman returning to the Crown Ground next season, but the forward knows the situation is comp-licated with a year still left on his Pacos deal.
“I’ve spoken to the gaffer about what we’d like to happen and I think we’ll keep that to ourselves for the minute,” said Amond, a doubt for today’s game against Hereford after picking up a back injury on Friday.
“Obviously I’m contracted to Pacos for another year so as far as I know I’m going to be back there for pre-season.
“I know they wanted me back in January but I didn’t think it was the right time because a new manager went in and he didn’t know me.
“After a few days he might not like me and then I’m sitting on the bench or in the stand, in a place where I can’t speak the language.
“I would need a pre-season under the manager, then see what happens.
“The best thing about here is I can be back home (in Ireland) in an hour if I wanted to with flights, whereas in Portugal there were only certain flights, two days a week. That was quite hard because I like going home to see my friends and family.
“I genuinely don’t know what is going to happen at the minute.
“It’s completely out of my hands, it’s in their hands and if they want me I might have no choice about it.”