Preston North End fans were hoping to see a bit more of their youth prospects in first-team action this season under Frankie McAvoy, but so far it hasn’t worked out that way.
Pre-season saw a number of teenagers get an opportunity to impress and some of them did, but only Joe Rodwell-Grant has seen minutes in the Championship and even that was a last-minute cameo against Swansea City in August.
Following the release of Tyrhys Dolan last summer and his subsequent rise at Blackburn Rovers, North End are now being extra cautious with their policy of youth players and have already tied down two of their starlets to early professional contracts.
Quiz: Have Preston North End ever won an away game at each of these 20 stadiums?
Let’s look at two young players who be set to have an exciting career if their development continues how it has been already.
It’s not often you see a player from the youth team get a senior squad number like 17 without playing a match, but Lewis Leigh is clearly very highly-rated by the PNE staff to be bestowed that honour.
A battling central midfielder, Leigh is 17 years old and a second-year scholar this year at the Lilywhites but in August the club were able to tie him down to a deal running until the summer of 2024.
That was a big achievement considering just weeks prior the likes of Arsenal, Everton, Leicester and West Ham were all said to be tracking his signature, per football.london, and as of September the interest from the Hammers and Toffees hadn’t gone away according to Football Insider.
It’s perhaps disappointing that Leigh is yet to make a senior appearance considering his involvement with the squad in pre-season – he caused quite a stir against Bolton with a strong challenge on Gethin Jones which showed he’s not afraid to get stuck in against the big boys – and he clearly knows how to score a goal judging by this effort against Fleetwood’s youth.
His time is surely coming though despite PNE having a really stacked midfield right now – although a loan to the Vanarama leagues or League Two could really benefit him.
The other player to focus on could have been young right-back Josh Seary, who was attracting interest from Premier League clubs before committing to a scholarship and then a professional deal with North End, but big things are expected as well of Mawene.
A surname familiar to PNE fans due to his father, Youl, being a commanding centre-back for the club in the mid-2000’s, the 16-year-old midfielder is a lot more attacking than his dad and he showed that in the senior squad in pre-season.
Mawene was one of a few players who was picked to train with the first-team and he took his chance against non-league Bamber Bridge, assisting two goals and scoring one himself in 17 first half minutes.
He also featured with all the other seniors against Bolton and started the 2021-22 season back in the under-19’s as expected, but an injury has ruled him out since September.
Whilst not even a scholar last season, Mawene hit double figures in terms of goals for the under-18’s so another good season with the youths when he’s recovered from his injury and we could end up seeing a quick rise into PNE’s first-team.