JORDAN Storey has admitted he has had to pinch himself when reflecting on his rapid rise from Chard Town to the Championship.

The centre-half, who joined Preston North End from Exeter City for an undisclosed fee in the summer, has featured five times for the Lilywhites and played the full 90 minutes in their 4-0 win over Wigan Athletic last weekend.

It is all a long way from this time last year, when Storey was cutting his teeth in the Evo-Stik Southern League Premier on loan at Dorchester Town on a footballing journey which began at Stoke-sub-Hamdon and has taken in Chard Town and Mere Town, among others.

Speaking to the Chard & Ilminster News, the defender – who grew up in South Petherton – said: “It’s crazy how quickly it’s all gone.

“Things can change so fast and you go from nowhere to being in the spotlight very suddenly.

“It just shows how quickly things can change and why you have to take every opportunity that comes your way.”

Storey has done just that since making his full Football League debut in February. He became a mainstay in Exeter’s back four during their promotion push, which culminated in a 3-1 defeat to Coventry City in the League Two play-off final at Wembley.

“It was great – it felt surreal to be walking out at one of the best stadiums in the country, if not the world,” he said.

“I enjoyed every minute of it and it just showed how quickly things had progressed – it was a dream come true.”

Storey’s assured displays at the heart of the Grecians defence did not go unnoticed by those higher up the footballing food chain and, just two weeks after turning out at Wembley, he completed his move to Deepdale.

“It was a bit nerve-wracking to begin with, moving all the way up here - it was the first time I had moved properly away from home,” Storey said.

“But it’s been really good. Everyone has been friendly and welcoming, and I’ve settled in really well.

“It’s a lot busier up here and there’s a lot more going on, which I like.”

Having appeared in each of Preston’s three EFL Cup ties, Storey made his Championship debut against West Brom before shining against Wigan in the Lilywhites’ first league win since the opening day of the season.

“It’s gone better than I expected,” the 21-year-old said.

“I didn’t expect to be in the team so soon, but now it’s a case of trying to cement my place in the team and continuing to play well.

“The step up in quality is noticeable – players make less mistakes and the tempo is a lot quicker. Everyone is an athlete.”

In an era where a majority of professional players are nurtured through club academies from a young age, Storey’s tale is a refreshing reminder that there is a different way in.

“I started out playing for Stoke-sub-Hamdon and had a year at Yeovil Town before they folded their academy,” he said.

“I played men’s football locally as well as playing for Chard Town Under-18s. We had a good side at the time under Hung Dang and it was a really good set up there.

“I was playing for Mere Town when the opportunity came up to have a trial with Exeter. One of the biggest positives about going there was their track record of producing good young players and giving them a chance in the first team.”

Storey had to wait for his chance, spending loan spells at Bideford and Tiverton Town as well as Dorchester, all of which proved valuable in his development.

“It was definitely helpful from a physical point of view,” he said.

“I was playing men’s football from a young age which stood me in good stead when I started playing for Exeter.

“Technically it perhaps didn’t help in comparison to the lads who have come through academies, but I’m happy with the route I took and I wouldn’t change it for anything.”

As the defender eluded to, his challenge now is to become a regular in the North End back four as they look to avoid a relegation battle.

“We really needed that win on Saturday [against Wigan] – and it’s always great when it is against a local rival,” he said.

“We knew that sort of performance was coming and I think it will be a springboard for us to kick on and move up the table.”