INJURY-PLAGUED Gary Parkinson faces a tough battle to get back into first team action after spending nearly a year in the treatment room.

Parky, 31, has spent an agonising year away from the first team after undergoing surgery to have his knee rebuilt following a horrendous tackle last season.

An opposing player fell onto Parkinson's knee as he went in for a tackle during last season's clash at Reading. Initially, it was thought he would only be out for about six weeks, but a complex scan in London revealed the sickening extent of the injury.

Always the optimist, Parkinson has always believed a return to action is just around the corner, but realist physio Mick Rathbone has always said it would take until now to get him back on the pitch.

The first hurdle is behind him but now the right-back faces another test - getting his first team place back from Graham Alexander.

The two have never had to compete for the same spot in the past, as Alexander was brought in to replace Parkinson once the true extent of his injury was known. Alexander has never missed a game since arriving at Deepdale last season, making for a 30-game unbroken run and earning him the "Mr Dependable" tag among sections of the Deepdale faithful.

Parkinson knows he will have to work hard to prove himself. He said: "The manager has brought in a lot of good players while I have been out.

"Obviously I will have to earn my place, which won't be easy looking at the talent we have here.

"There is a lot of competition for places in the back four, but I am just as hungry as anyone else.

"I have been out for a long time, and I can't wait to be back in action."

PRESTON have been dealt another injury blow with the news that Michael Appleton will not be fit until Christmas.

According to North End, Appleton has not responded well to treatment following a knee injury, which could mean he is sidelined for a further six weeks.

The midfielder picked up the injury during September's derby clash with Burnley. Striker Steve Basham picked up a similar injury on the he same day and also underwent surgery, but he is making better progress and could soon be back in the first team frame.

Appleton, it seems, will have to wait longer. Fortunately, injuries, although always a worry, do not concern PNE as much this season as adequate reinforcements are in place for virtually every position.

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