MIDDLESBROUGH striker Jordan Hugill makes his first return to familiar territory this evening – but the hand of friendship is unlikely to be extended until after the final whistle.
The Teessider, who has hit three goals in his last two outings for hometown club Boro, is starting to show vestiges of the form which made him a favourite at Preston – and prompted West Ham to sign him in a big-money £10million move in January.
Hugill’s time in London proved somewhat fraught, with the 26-year-old finding sanctuary at Boro after joining them on a season-long loan in early August.
The forward’s first return to North End was kept on ice in late September when he was not involved in Boro’s plans for their EFL Cup tie in Preston – with manager Tony Pulis resting him amid a crowded league schedule.
But he returns to Deepdale as Boro’s number one frontline striker, having usurped Britt Assombalonga in the pecking order.
Not that he can expect any goodwill tonight, certainly not from the man set to mark him in home defender Paul Huntington.
He said: “Jordan was a great lad. He did really well for us and we wish him well – after the game.
“We got along really well, but we will put friendships aside as it is about Preston going out and winning another game of football.
“Each player is different, but I am a little bit old school, not too friendly before or during the game, but shake hands after.”
Last six games: Preston DWDDWW; Middlesbrough DDWDWW.
Referee: P Bankes (Merseyside).
Last time: Preston 2 Middlesbrough 2, September 25, 2018; EFL Cup.