Despite showing signs earlier in 2022 that they may push for the Championship play-offs, Preston North End‘s season has tailed off in the last month, and it’s likely going to be a bottom half finish for the Lilywhites this season.
Ryan Lowe got off to a very positive start as PNE’s manager following his December arrival from Plymouth Argyle to replace Frankie McAvoy, but many draws followed that should have been wins and more recently there have been some tonkings – most recently at the hands of Blackburn Rovers.
There’s set to be a major cull of personnel at Deepdale this summer, with Lowe already wielding the axe with Josh Murphy’s loan being cancelled early and Izzy Brown no longer training with the club.
Quiz: Which club did Preston North End sign these 24 players from in the 1990s?
There’s also a chance that Lowe could look to blood some of the youth team into the senior squad in 2022-23 – let’s look at TWO players he may seek to give more game-time when the new season arrives.
Youth players in the first-team picture at North End in recent years is a real rarity, but what happened in the summer of 2020 to let Tyrhys Dolan depart and then flourish at Blackburn Rovers has seen fans clamour for more players to get given an opportunity.
It seems like Lowe has taken favour with one teenager in particular though in the form of O’Neill, who has been named in a number of matchday squads recently and he received his debut late on against Queens Park Rangers earlier in April.
Born and bred in Liverpool, just like Lowe, O’Neill can play as an attacking midfielder or striker and at the age of 17 has been prolific for both the club’s under-19’s and reserve sides.
You’d expect him to feature against Barnsley this weekend or next Saturday against Middlesbrough with a view to being included more next season.
It’s hard to pinpoint a second up-and-comer that could make an impact next season – none of the first or second-year professionals that are out on loan have done much to warrant being called up by Lowe so it may be a case of looking at the current crop of under-19’s.
One player who was tied down very early to a professional deal was Seary, a right-back who was being courted by Premier League clubs before North End convinced him to stay at Deepdale.
Seary has been featuring in reserve games for PNE and he will turn professional on his 18th birthday in September – with a lack of mobile wing-backs at the club in the first-team ranks, the Republic of Ireland youth international could be looked at in pre-season and if he catches Lowe’s eye then it could be all systems go for Seary from there.