One thing Preston North End haven’t really been too good at though in years gone by is bringing through talented youth prospects.
You can probably count on one hand how many academy graduates have come through the grade in the 21st century and made it at Championship level or above – Andy Lonergan and Ben Davies are two whilst the likes of Josh Brownhill and Bailey Wright came to PNE as teenagers but still spent time in the system.
There was despair last summer as the whole group of second year scholars – bar Ethan Walker who had already penned a professional deal – were released, and that included attacking midfielder Tyrhys Dolan, who went to Blackburn and excited their fans as he was given immediate first-team opportunities.
North End won’t want to be making that kind of mistake again, and Frankie McAvoy may give youngsters more of a chance unlike Alex Neil.
Let’s look at two of those who could breakthrough into the senior ranks next season.
The 2021-22 campaign could be a make or break one for O’Reilly, who has been highly-rated for years after graduating through PNE’s academy.
An energetic central midfielder, the 20-year-old Irishman was given his brief debut in December 2018 by Alex Neil when he was 18, but it’s just not happened for him since then and several non-league loans followed.
However a temporary switch to Waterford in the top division of his native country earlier this year may be the making of him – O’Reilly is impressing for them in midfield even though the team are struggling and despite PNE’s midfield ranks being stacked, there’s every chance his excursion on the Emerald Isle could see him force his way into McAvoy’s plans.
That could be later next season though – O’Reilly’s loan expires this week however it may make more sense to extend it until the end of the Irish season in November and then bring him back into the fold at Deepdale once that is over.
Quiz: What was the score the last time Preston North End played each of these 25 teams?
Not wanting to make the same mistakes after letting Dolan fall through the trap, North End added 10 new scholars to their ranks from the under-16’s squad this past week – and two of those will turn professional when they reach the age of 17.
One of those is defender Joe Seary, who was attracting interest from Premier League clubs but has decided to stay loyal with PNE.
The other has a surname very familiar to North End fans in Mawene – and it is former centre-back Youl’s son – Noah – that could be the next star to come out of the academy.
A midfielder, Mawene hit double figures in the under-18’s last season despite being 15 years old for most of it, which shows how much talent he has to be involved at that age as a regular.
If you’re good enough though you’re old enough, and if he continues to show that kind of development next season then Mawene could be fast-tracked into the senior setup.